Most Americans think life in prison, with the possibility of parole, is either too harsh or the appropriate punshiment for spying on behalf of Israel
When Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for Israel in 1987, Americans believed his sentence was the right one. Now, as he is about to be released the percentage saying that has dropped, and the public in the latest YouGov Poll is willing to go along with his release on are willing parole.
Opinion on the severity of Pollard’s sentence had shifted about a year ago. In a YouGov poll conducted last April, just over a third felt the sentence was the right one. Similar numbers say that today.
Republicans are most likely to think the original sentence was too harsh. However, half of Republicans today see the original sentence as too lenient or as about right.
The Pollard case involved the prosecution and sentencing of someone spying for a U.S. ally, which many Americans agree describes Israel. In the latest poll, only 5% say Israel is an enemy, while 10% say Israel is unfriendly. Two in three consider Israel either a country friendly to the United States or as an ally. Those figures have been fairly consistent, through recent conflicts and disagreements.
However, while two-thirds continue to say Israel is friendly or an ally, the percentage who now say Israel is an ally (39%) is among the lowest recorded – in November 2009, it was 50%.
But friendship doesn’t change the public’s view of spying as wrong, no matter who it is for. Seven in ten agree that spying for a friendly country is as bad as spying for an enemy. That percentage is fairly consistent among all groups. There are basically no differences in the opinions of Democrats and Republicans, even though Republicans have been much more positive than Democrats in their views of Israel. In this poll, nearly twice as many Republicans (59%) as Democrats (32%) describe Israel as an ally.
There is little partisan disagreement on what the penalty for spying for an ally should be, too. One in three think it should be more lenient than the life sentence (with the possibility of parole) given to Pollard; one in five think it should be harsher, choosing either life without parole or the death penalty. But that is a drop from the 29% who said that a year ago.
But as for Pollard today, Americans are generally willing to go along with his parole. Only one in four disagree. Opposition has dropped from a year ago.
There are no party differences.
Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.