Americans back Israel - but does the government?

July 16, 2014, 1:27 PM GMT+0

Americans tend to sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinian in their conflict, but people who support Israel aren't sure that the US government sides with Israel

Americans are more sympathetic towards Israel in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, sympathy with Israel increases with the amount of attention Americans are paying to the current round of fighting.

Two out of three of those who are paying very close attention side with Israel in the conflict, more than four times the number in this group whose sympathies lie more with the Palestinians. Few of the most attentive feel for both sides. That is quite different from opinion among the overall public, which is clearly divided between sympathizing more with Israel and having mixed feelings or being pro-Palestinian. Republicans are twice as likely to be following the conflict very closely, and they overwhelmingly favor Israel.

The difficulty that President Barack Obama faces is that many Americans, whatever their feelings about the conflict, believe the U.S. government is taking a position different from their own preferences. Only 37% of those who support Israel believe the U.S. government does too, while a similar percentage believes the government sides more with the Palestinians. Majorities of those whose sympathies are more with the Palestinians or who have sympathies with both sides see the U.S. as supporting Israel.

Therefore, it may come as little surprise that most Americans are unhappy with the Administration’s performance when it comes to the conflict: only 25% approve of how Barack Obama is handling the situation.

Disapproval rises among the most attentive: 59% of those following events closely disapprove of the President’s performance. Among those following very closely, disapproval rises to 74%.

Israeli Prime Mister Benjamin Netanyahu fares better than the American President with the American public. More hold a favorable than an unfavorable view of Netanyahu.

The most attentive are overwhelmingly favorable: 73% of them have a favorable opinion of the Israeli Prime Minister; only 20% are unfavorable.

As for U.S involvement in the conflict, there is no consensus. Only 19% believe U.S. policies give Israel the right amount of support. Nearly as many say the U.S. is giving too much support to Israel as say it is giving too little (though the “too little” percentage increases to 60% among the most attentive). And as for the United States taking on the role of mediator in the conflict, as many say it should not as think it should.

While there is slightly more support for some U.S. involvement among those following the conflict very closely, just 46% of those paying very close attention favor a U.S. role as mediator, with 38% opposing that sort of role.

Many Americans may believe this conflict is insoluble, and that hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians will continue no matter what. Nearly a third believe most Israelis hate Palestinians. But even more believe most Palestinians hate Israelis.

Among those who are paying the closest attention, the blame is squarely on Palestinians. Three in four of those following events very closely believe most Palestinians hate Israelis. A majority in this group say most Israelis do not hate Palestinians.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.