New Gallup Poll Shows Modest Shift in American Sympathies towards Palestinians
By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
A recent Gallup Poll shows American Democrats sympathize more with Palestinians than Israelis for the first time, with Independents and Republicans still siding more with Israelis in the conflict. The Poll reports a generally low rating for the Palestinian Authority and a decline in favorability towards the Netanyahu Government. Israel over previous decades has been treated in a bipartisan way by Americans but now the parties are polarized. This was accentuated under Trump when sharp political differences were exaggerated by an unswerving loyalty to Israel’s government.
American political parties mixed in favorability towards Israel and Palestine
A recent Gallup Poll surveyed Americans about their favorability towards Israel and Palestinians. For the first time, Democrats sympathized more with Palestinians than Israelis. In viewing the two sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Independents and Republicans remained on the Israeli side.
A recent survey shows Democrats with a growing sympathy towards Palestinians. That change indicates a higher favorability rating of 49% for Palestinians against 38% for Israelis. Independents increased their rating towards Palestinians but they rated Israelis slightly higher. Republicans have remained steadfast in their view of Israelis, giving them an overwhelming rating of 78% versus 11% for Palestinians.
The Gallup Poll reported, “As a result of this year’s partisan shifts, sympathy toward the Palestinians among U.S. adults is at a new high of 31%, while the proportion not favoring a side is at a new low of 15%. The 54% of Americans sympathizing more with the Israelis is similar to last year’s 55% but is the lowest since 2005.” The poll shows for the “first time Israel has not enjoyed a better than 2-to-1 advantage over the Palestinians in Americans’ sympathies.”
Gallup reports that the most critical change in public opinion concerns support for the Palestinians. That support marks an upward trend over the past five years, as those surveyed also indicated less uncertainty about their opinion of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Importantly, generational differences show that it is the millennial generation that displays the most sympathy towards Palestinians, 42%, with 40% pro-Israelis. Perhaps not surprisingly, Baby boomers, GenXers, and the Silent Generation favor Israelis.
Overall, Gallup purports, “Today’s divergence reflects a steep drop in recent years in net sympathy for Israel among millennials, whereas net sympathy for Israel has been steadier at a higher level among all three older generations.”
Low rating for Palestinian Authority, while opinion toward Netanyahu Government also declines
The Palestinian Authority (PA) drew a much lower rating in the Gallup Poll than did the Israeli Government—only a 36% favorability rating from Democrats, 28% of Independents, and 9% of Republicans. Conversely, Israel received favorability ratings of 82% Republicans, 67% Independents, and 56% Democrats.
When it comes to ratings about the people of the region, Palestinians and Israelis, Americans’ views in terms of the conflict have become more polarized. Gallup noted, “Democrats increasingly commiserate with the Palestinians, while Republicans maintain their solid alignment with the Israelis. The escalation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities over the past year, resulting in a high number of Palestinians killed, could partly explain the most recent shift in Democrats’ perspective.”
When religion enters the picture, there is a sense from the survey that those Americans “attending religious services weekly” tend to be more aligned with Israel. Gallup assumes a “waning religiosity” of Democrats correlates with their growing support of Palestinians’ needs. As an MSNBC opinion on the Poll suggests, while a number of factors may be involved in the shift in Democrats’ opinion, “the most likely reason should be obvious: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Broader context of the Gallup Poll, Netanyahu veers towards authoritarianism
News source Middle East Eye (MEE) found even more reasons to explain Democrats’ shift towards Palestinians. In addition to Gallup’s and MSNBC’s explanations, MEE suggests that Netanyahu’s far-right government has attempted to corral Israel’s civil society, its academics, business elites, and former military and government figures.
Also, Prime Minister Netanyahu is attempting to revamp the country’s judicial system. Some critics affirm that such a move intends to keep Netanyahu from the possibility of facing indictment and out of prison on current corruption charges. That move might also be manipulated to promote a newly aligned court’s will to support even more Jewish settlements on the West Bank and further control and encroachment on Palestinians.
Israel over decades has been treated in a bipartisan way by Americans, whether Democrats or Republicans. However, domestic politics have more recently polarized along lines of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. While such sharp political differences were exaggerated in former president Trump’s era, the Biden administration has unfortunately continued Trump’s mostly unswerving loyalty to Israel’s government. The U.S. needs to do a lot better.
–“Democrats’ Sympathies in Middle East Shift to Palestinians,” Gallup Poll, 3/16/2023
–“Netanyahu burned bridges with Democrats. Here’s one result,” MSNBC, 3/16/2023
–“For the first time, more US Democrats sympathize with Palestinians than Israelis,” Middle East Eye, 3/17/2023
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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