Pew poll: Republicans overwhelmingly back Israel, Democrats evenly divided

Experts says the Pew poll findings show President Trump is viewed as pro-Israel, while Netanyahu remains a polarizing figure in the US.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 10-15 among 1,503 American adults, shows strong support for Israel among Republicans, with Democrats’ sympathies evenly divided between Israel and the Palestinians. The poll also showed strong Republican support for President Donald Trump’s “pro-Israel” views and  Democratic disapproval of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

According to the Pew poll: The partisan divide in Middle East sympathies, for Israel or the Palestinians, is now wider than at any point since 1978. Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%. Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying this has declined 11 percentage points, from 38% to 27%.

Marc Zell, the head of Republicans in Israel told World Israel News (WIN), “This has much to do with the Democrats. In the eight years of the Obama administration the party moved sharply to the left. As an example they nearly nominated socialist Bernie Sanders as their presidential candidate. That radical left agenda includes hatred of Israel and identification with Palestinian claims. It’s sad because in the past Israel was a strong bi-partisan cause. Back in 1992 Republicans in Israel actually supported Bill Clinton against President Bush because then Secretary of State James Baker held anti-Israel views. Now we have the most pro-Israel administration ever and it’s in sharp contrast to the last Democratic administration.”

Pew poll: 42% say Donald Trump is “striking the right balance” in the Middle East, while 30% say he favors Israel too much (just 3% say Trump sides too much with the Palestinians; 25% do not offer an opinion). Nearly three times as many Republicans (52%) as Democrats (18%) have favorable impressions of Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lenny Ben-David, the former director of AIPAC-Israel told WIN, “The poll result comes after eight years of the Obama administration heaping criticism on Israel for ‘lack of flexibility.’ Trump and Pence’s closeness to Israel actually drive away Democratic supporters from Israel because ‘a friend of my enemy is my enemy.’ The Republican Party was once upon a time driven by arms dealers, big business and oil. The Reagan presidency changed all that. Now as Democratic activist Morley Winograd taught me, ‘Republicans are made up of Wall Street, easy street and main street.’ Main street is the bible belt and the Evangelical Christians. … Back in the 90s, Netanyahu became buddies with the Moral Majority Christians and there is now a real bond.”

Pew poll: Republicans increasingly sympathize with Israel; Democrats are divided. When asked about the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, 46% of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis, 16% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians and about four-in-ten (38%) either volunteer that their sympathies are with both (5%), neither (14%) or that they do not know (19%).

“The traditional Democrats were pro-Israel with an alliance of Jews, ethnic groups,  blacks, Latinos and labor unionists. Now you can see Palestinian flags flying at the Democratic National Conventions. Jewish liberals are on the defensive. AIPAC is reacting to this difficult period by reaching out for traditional African-Americans, Latinos and labor union support for Israel. They are looking to re-build the bi-partisan rainbow coalition in support of Israel to offset the trend toward a radical left movement in the Democratic party,” Ben-David said.

Pew poll: Opinions of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, are basically unchanged from last year. About as many say they have a favorable view (31%) as an unfavorable opinion (28%) of Netanyahu; 41% express no opinion of Israel’s prime minister.

Mitchell Barak from Keevoon Global Research told WIN, “Netanyahu’s public diplomacy tactic is to ‘divide and conquer.’ He publicly challenged the last administration, going directly to congress to challenge the administration’s policy on Iran. He made Israel a partisan issue. The polls reflect Netanyahu’s alignment with Republicans and Evangelicals. Netanyahu’s language and toughness appeal to the Republicans. The Democrats want to hear the language of peace, human rights and support for immigrants. Republicans love it when Netanyahu expels asylum seekers. Democrats do not. Netanyahu builds border walls and fights terrorists. Democrats like to hear ‘give peace a chance.'”