WASHINGTON — For the first time, a poll by Gallup found that Democrats are likelier to sympathize with Palestinians than with Israelis, though a majority of Democrats have a favorable view of Israel.
Asked, “In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” 49% of Democrats sympathized more with the Palestinians and 38% sympathized more with the Israelis. An additional 13%, according to the poll, sympathized with neither, both or had no opinion. It was the first time since at least 2001 that more Democrats sympathized with the Palestinians than with the Israelis.
“The resulting 23-point gap in Americans’ sympathy for Israel versus the Palestinians represents Israel’s slimmest advantage on this question in Gallup’s World Affairs poll trend,” Gallup said. “It is also the first time Israel has not enjoyed a better than 2-to-1 advantage over the Palestinians in Americans’ sympathies.”
Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats view Israel favorably, according to Gallup. Overall, with 68% of respondents have a favorable opinion of the country. Among Republicans, 82% view Israel favorably, and the figure among Democrats is 56%.
Last year, sympathies among Democrats in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were virtually tied, with 40% sympathizing more with Israelis and 38% sympathizing more with the Palestinians. A decade ago, 55% of Democrats sympathized more with Israel, and 19% sympathized more with the Palestinians. Israel’s positive margin in the survey has progressively declined since then.
The trend in recent years, Gallup said in its release Thursday, has been toward increased sympathy toward the Palestinians, but it did not detail what caused the 11% surge in sympathy for the Palestinians among Democrats in the past year.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have intensified over the past year. More than a dozen Israelis have died in attacks this year while dozens of Palestinians, who Israel says are mostly militants, have died in Israeli military raids in the West Bank. Late last year, Israelis elected a governing coalition that includes far-right parties, including lawmakers who have declared themselves openly and proudly anti-LGBTQ.
Halie Soifer, the CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Gallup’s question presents a false dichotomy and that the Democratic Party’s leadership is pro-Israel.
“Democrats – from President Biden on down – strongly support Israel’s safety and security,” she told JTA. “There is no contradiction between being pro-Israel and supporting Palestinian rights, which is why Democrats continue to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as security assistance for Israel and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a zero-sum game, and thus polling that presents it as a binary choice is inherently flawed. Also, there is no evidence of erosion of support for Israel among Democrats in Congress and the White House.”
Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in a statement that declining Democratic sympathy for Israel “is an extremely troubling trend.”
The pollster also reported that sympathies for Israelis tended to diminish among younger voters. Baby boomers sympathize with Israelis over Palestinians by a margin of 46 points. But Palestinians hold a two-point advantage in sympathies among millennials.
The phone poll of 1,008 voting Americans took place between Feb. 1 and Feb. 23. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Democrats’ waning religiosity may be a factor in the longer-term trend. Sympathy for Israel has historically been highly correlated with religion, with those attending religious services weekly being much more sympathetic to the Israelis than those who seldom or never attend.