News & Politics

Pew Poll Makes It Official: Democrats Abandon Israel

FILE -- In this Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, US President Barack Obama, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during the funeral of former Israeli President and Prime minister Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. (Menahem Kahana, Pool via AP, File)

President Donald Trump has proven to be a staunch defender of Israel, officially recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital. Republicans are on board, but Democrats have distanced themselves from Israel in the past two years, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Since 1978, more Americans have sympathized with Israel than with the Palestinians. In recent years, Republicans have backed Israel and Democrats have pulled away.

According to the Pew survey, 46 percent of Americans favor Israel, while 16 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians. A full 38 percent said they either sympathize with both (5 percent), neither (14 percent) or that they don’t know (19 percent). In 1978, 45 percent said they sympathized with Israel, 14 percent favored the Palestinians, and 42 percent could not decide.

A vast majority of Republicans (79 percent) said they sympathized more with Israel than with the Palestinians, an increase of 29 percentage points from 2001 (when 50 percent of Republicans preferred Israel).

Democrats shifted decisively away from Israel even more dramatically, however. In April 2016 — less than two years ago — 43 percent of Democrats said they sympathized more with Israel. This year, only 27 percent said so.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, liberal Democrats drove this change. In 2016, 33 percent of liberal Democrats sympathized with Israel, while 19 percent did so this year. Nearly twice as many liberal Democrats say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than Israel (35 percent to 19 percent).

Moderate and conservative Democrats still sympathize more with Israel (35 percent) than with the Palestinians (17 percent). Even so, fewer conservative and moderate Democrats sympathize with Israel today (35 percent) than in 2016 (53 percent).

Democrats didn’t reject Israel for the Palestinians, however. In fact, more Democrats sympathized with Palestine in 2016 (29 percent) than this year (25 percent). In 2016, only 16 percent of Democrats said they sympathized with both the Israelis and the Palestinians or neither of them.

Even in the past year, more Democrats said they sympathized with both or neither — and more said they just don’t know. In 2017, 19 percent chose both or neither, while this year 23 percent did so. Last year, 17 percent said they did not know which side they sympathized with, while 25 percent said so this year.

More Americans said President Trump is “striking the right balance” in the Middle East (42 percent) than said he favors Israel too much (30 percent). A quarter (25 percent) did not offer an opinion, while 3 percent said Trump favors the Palestinians too much (what are they smoking?).

At a similar point in Barack Obama’s presidency — April 2010 — 47 percent of Americans said he struck the proper balance, while 21 percent said he sided too much with the Palestinians, and 7 percent said Obama favored Israel too much.

The Jewish state’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remains popular among Republicans, 60 percent of whom view him favorably. Only 13 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion. Meanwhile, many more Democrats (49 percent) had an unfavorable view of Netanyahu than a favorable one (15 percent).

Sympathy for Israel ran extremely high among white evangelical Protestants (78 percent), but most Christians favored Israel over the Palestinians. More mainline Protestants (48 percent), black Protestants (40 percent) and Catholics (43 percent) sympathized with the Jewish state as well. Only religiously unaffiliated Americans sympathized more with the Palestinians (29 percent) than with Israel (26 percent).

Pew surveyed 1,503 Americans between January 10 and January 15. While the center focused on the widening gap between the two parties, the real shift came among Democrats, and especially among liberal members of the Left-wing party. Liberals are rejecting Israel.