Israel’s favorability: Back up to 72%

March 26, 2014

Last year, as we presented our J-Meter tracking of Israel’s favorability numbers in the US, we noted a decline that we felt was worth mentioning. In fact, Prof. Camil Fuchs and I, looking at the numbers on the eve of Obama’s visit to Israel, penned an article together for Haaretz (Hebrew) in which we presented the updated numbers, which showed a measure of decline in the “favorable” numbers for Israel. We did this because just days earlier, another poll, asking about Israel compared to the Palestinians, showed a markedly high support rate for Israel – the highest of all times. Yet, as we explained in our article, “favorability” numbers are more reliable than comparative questions from which one never knows if it is Israel that people truly like, or the other side that they dislike.

Apparently, all this was a false alarm. Gallup just published new “favorability” data, and Israel’s situation seems fine. Last year, with its 66% “favorable” and 29% “unfavorable” opinion of Israel, seems like an outlier; this year the numbers are back to where they were in recent years – in fact, even a little higher: 72% and 23%. That’s the lowest “unfavorable” rate since 1991 and the highest “favorable” rate since, well, 1991. That was the year of the first Gulf War, when Israel was under Iraqi missile attack and at its peak in favorability. But what it is that makes 2014 such a wonderful year is a mystery. Maybe it’s the overall disillusionment with “Arab spring” prophesies.

Here’s the updated graph by Prof. Camil Fuchs (followed by some analysis and details on the methodology of this graph):


The graph above presents the favorable and the unfavorable rates towards Israel for the entire period between the 1989 and the beginning of 2014.

It’s worth noting that there are several questions which are asked regularly and which are often used to assess US public opinion toward Israel. Our past ‘Israel Favorability Index’ presented the trends in three specific categories of American public opinion on Israel – categories that had been analyzed by combining the data obtained from the responses to relevant questions about public opinion, conducted between 1989 and 2012. Those three categories were:

1) Favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards Israel in general.
2) The extent to which Americans view Israel as an ally of the US.
3) Favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards the people of Israel.

The current index focuses only on the first of the three categories, i.e. “favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards Israel in general”, and presents the data from polls performed between 1989 and 2014. We have updated the graph with the results from a recent Gallup pollpublished on February 18, 2014. That’s the only new data from recent months that’s relevant to our current methodology of tracking.

The table below presents the dates, the sources and the wording of the relevant questions from the polls that include a question related to the question we’re interested in here. The wording in all the relevant polls is identical. The analyzed results are two sums: of “favorable” and “very favorable” and “unfavorable” and “very unfavorable”, which we denote as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.

The computation of the plotted results

Since the polls were conducted with uneven time intervals between them, we attempted to create comparable indices by statistical approximations as follows:

a) The time period between 1989 and the first half-year of 2012 was divided into half-year intervals, and for each of the first two aspects of public opinion towards Israel, we averaged the results of all the polls conducted in the same half-year period.

b) Whenever there were gaps of one half-year or more between two intervals with actual data, we fitted a model of linear imputation for the missing intervals. For example, in the question about opinion on Israel in general, there was no data for the second half of 2009. Since the average favorable rate for the first half of 2009 was 69%, and the average favorable rate for the first half of 2010 was 63%, we imputed the mid-value of 66% for the in-between interval, and so on.

c) The last two data points (from February 2013 and 2014) were exempted from the half-year rule, and we present them immediately following the previous year point (February 2012).




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