Poll: American voters’ support for Israel rising
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JERUSALEM POST
WASHINGTON – Americans’ support for Israel is up, with the increase coming from unexpected sectors, an Israel Project poll released on Thursday revealed.
So-called “opinion elites” and Democratic voters drove the shift, which pegged American voter support for Israel around the 60 percent mark in the survey conducted last week.
According to the poll, Jewish approval of the president’s performance declined to 45 percent, with 48 percent disapproving and 7 percent undecided. Last year, 51 percent approved of Obama’s job performance and 44 percent disapproved.
AJC also surveyed Jews’ opinions about the current GOP presidential contenders. In match-ups with the president, AJC found that Mitt Romney would fare best among Jewish voters when running against Obama, with 32 percent of the Jewish vote compared with Obama’s 50 percent. Perry would attract 25 percent of the Jewish vote against Obama’s 55 percent, and Bachmann would get 19 percent to Obama’s 59 percent.
The poll demonstrated that support for Israel among President Barack Obama’s Democratic voters was on the rise, and that the majority of Americans believed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was more committed to peace than his Palestinian counterpart.
Support for Israel among Democrats has risen by 10 percentage points in the past six months, while support among independent voters and Republicans has remained steady.
The current support for Israel reflects the highest rate since 2009 among polls conducted for the Israel Project. “Opinion elites” – responders who display high engagement in foreign policy, education and income – showed an even more pronounced level of support, exceeding the general sample by 7 percentage points.
“This poll shows that Israel is significantly more popular among American voters than either the president or Congress,” Israel Project Founder and President Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi said. “Second, it shows that the American public really supports the peace process and the two-state solution.”
Laszlo-Mizrahi said that American support for Israel had been improved in recent months by Obama’s September 21 speech at the UN General Assembly in which he reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist.
In addition, she said, “during the situation involving the release of Gilad Schalit, the American public saw and appreciated the wrenching agony surrounding the decision to release hundreds of convicted terrorists for one soldier. Americans respected Israel’s commitment to the safety of its citizens.”
Respondents characterized Israel as “one of our strongest allies” (68%) and a “democracy” (66%) while rejecting the notion that Israel is “extremist” (61%) or “responsible for the violence” (65%).
Over half of those polled – 56% – consider Palestinians to be “extremist” and an “obstacle to peace,” and 55% do not consider Palestinians to be “victims.”
The voters polled cited women’s rights, freedom of speech, voting, freedom of religion, and the threat of terrorism (24%) as the top reasons they are proud of America’s strong alliance with Israel – although none of those reasons appeared as clearly dominant.
Lazslo-Mizrahi said that some of these reasons, particularly women’s rights, resonate particularly strongly in contrast to recent developments in Arab countries, such as calls to institute Shari’a law and polygamy in Libya.
What was dominant was support for a two-state solution that would recognize “Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people.” Seventy- three percent of voters, and 86% of opinion elite said that they supported such a plan.
Days before Obama, in a conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was caught expressing frustration with Netanyahu’s efforts on the peace process, a majority of American voters (60%) said that Netanyahu and Israel are committed to peace, while 52% say that President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are not committed to that end.
The poll also found strong concern regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“America has become very partisan, but this is a subject that seems to cross that divide,” Lazslo-Mizrahi said.
Two-thirds (65%) of those polled view Iran negatively, and there is strong support for varied actions against Teheran, including supporting opposition groups in the country (82%), which can be taken toward Iran if it does not stop its nuclear program.
Respondents listed support for Hamas and Hezbollah (30%), and statements by Iran’s government that it wants to wipe Israel off the map (28%) as top reasons of concern regarding the Islamic Republic.