For decades in the United States, supporting Israel has been a bipartisan cause. Yet the latest Pew numbers suggest that could be changing, the Forward reports:
While self-identified Democrats are more likely to favor Israel over the Palestinians (43 percent for Israel vs. 29 percent for the Palestinians), they are far less sympathetic toward Israel than either Republicans or Independents, the new survey by the Pew Research Center showed. Among self-identified Republicans, 75 percent say they sympathize more with Israel and only 7 percent say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. Among Independents, 52 percent sympathize more with Israel and 19 percent with the Palestinians.
The findings show one of the widest-ever gaps between the two main political parties when it comes to Israel.
The new data is part of a telephone survey of more than 4,000 American adults between April 4 and 24 in which Pew surveyors asked respondents a range of questions about how they view the U.S. role in the world.
Among Americans overall, 54 percent say they sympathize more with Israel, 19 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians, 13 percent said they sympathize with neither side, and 3 percent said they sympathize with both. Compared to a similar survey conducted in July 2014, sympathy for Israel held steady while sympathy for the Palestinians jumped by one-third, from 14 percent in 2014 to 19 percent today.
Supporters of Israel wringing their hands and anti-Zionists feeling giddy should take a deep breath. Support for Israel hasn’t so much fallen as support for the Palestinians has increased. In 2006, only 9 percent of young Americans said they sympathize with the Palestinians. Today, that number is 27 percent. Sympathy for Israel, meanwhile, has remained at 43 percent.
In general, these latest numbers fit the trend of the past fifty years: liberal Democrats were Israel’s strongest supporters in the 1940s and 1950s, but they have become less enthusiastic over the years. Conservative Republicans, meanwhile, were often agnostic about Israel in the 1940s and 1950s but have become the Jewish state’s most uncritically vocal advocates.
Overall, Americans are still much more sympathetic to Israel than they are to the Palestinians—a fact which many people around the world struggling to explain the United States’ exceptional relationship with Israel would do well to appreciate. Members of Congress don’t vote for aid packages to Israel because of some Jewish cabal; they do so because it’s an easy way to curry favor among their constituents at home.
Still, the generational split is worth watching. America’s support for Israel has and is based on deep popular opinion. If that opinion changes with the generations, America’s policies will too.