A Pew Research report exposes a partisan divide that has widened considerably, with support for Israel by Democrats plummeting to 27% while Republican support has risen to an all time high.
By David Lazarus
Support for Israel among US Democrats is dropping sharply, and the party once preferred by American Jews is quickly losing their support
According to a 2018 Pew Research survey, currently, 79% of Republicans say they sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, compared with just 27% of Democrats.
Since 2001, the number of Republicans siding with Israel over the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%. Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying they sympathize with Israel has declined 11 points, from 38% to 27%.
The partisan divide has widened considerably, especially over the past two decades. The share of Republicans who sympathize with Israel has never been higher, dating back four decades. Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans (79%) sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, while just 6% sympathize more with the Palestinians.
Democrats are more divided in their views on the Middle East conflict: Currently, 27% of Democrats say they sympathize more with Israel, while 25% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. Democrats also were divided last year, when 33% said they sympathized with Israel and 31% said the Palestinians.
Among Democrats, the sharp decline over the last few years among those who say they sympathize more with Israel can be seen all across the party, from liberals to moderates to conservatives.
The share of liberal Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians has declined from 33% to 19% since 2016. Currently, nearly twice as many liberal Democrats say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel.
Moderate and conservative Democrats continue to sympathize more with Israel (35%) than the Palestinians (17%). However, the share of conservative and moderate Democrats who sympathize more with Israel has declined 18 percentage points since 2016 (from 53% to 35%).
There has been less change since 2016 among Republicans: Large majorities of both conservative Republicans (81%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (70%) continue to say they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians.
In spite of some concerns that churches are moving towards a more pro-Palestinian position, the survey shows that white Evangelical Protestants continue to overwhelmingly side with Israel: 78% say this, while just 5% side with the Palestinians.
Non-Christian young people are more divided than older adults in where their sympathies lie in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. About a third of those under 30 (32%) say they sympathize more with Israel, compared with 23% who sympathize more with the Palestinians. Those in older age groups sympathize more with Israel by wide margins.
Today, nearly half of Democrats (46%) say Trump favors Israel too much, a remarkable statistic that reveals the strong anti-Israel sentiments on the Left and another reason Jews are leaving the party. Trump gets high marks from his own party for handling the Middle East. Among Republicans, 73% say he is striking the right balance.
The survey finds that while Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided in views of Israel, so, too, do they differ markedly in opinions about Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. Nearly three times as many Republicans (52%) as Democrats (18%) have favorable impressions of Israel’s leader.
Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, have positive views of Netanyahu. Six-in-ten conservative Republicans (60%) view Netanyahu favorably, while just 13% have an unfavorable opinion.
Democrats’ views of Netanyahu are much more negative. And among liberal Democrats, more than three times as many have an unfavorable view of Netanyahu (49%) than a favorable opinion (15%).
In 2019, a notable number of Democrats within the party are moving further to the left than ever before. The party as a whole is following suit and leaving support for Israel and their Jewish voters behind. With the Jewish vote now leaning hard right, and thus joining with Evangelical Christians, it is likely that once again Israel will be center stage and have a major impact on the 2020 US elections.
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