US Democrat voters sympathise more with Palestinians than Israelis, Gallup poll finds

Survey results show 49% of Democrats are sympathetic to Palestinians and 38% to Israel

A rally in honour of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian-American journalist killed by Israeli gunfire, outside The New York Times office building. EPA
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Opinions about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have shifted sharply among Democrats in the US, who now sympathise more with Palestinians than Israelis for the first time, a Gallup poll has found.

After 10 years in which Democrats have shown increasing affinity towards the Palestinians, the survey showed 49 per cent sympathised with Palestinians and 38 per cent with Israelis.

Among the Republican voters surveyed, views on the conflict were unchanged, with nearly eight in 10 (78 per cent) saying they continue to sympathise more with the Israelis, while 11 per cent side with the Palestinians.

The latest findings are from last month’s update of Gallup's annual World Affairs poll.

“The most consequential changes in public opinion on this question have occurred in the past five years, as support for the Palestinians has ticked up and support for Israel, as well as ambivalence about the conflict, have each declined," said Lydia Saad, director of US social research at Gallup.

“The escalation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities over the past year, resulting in a high number of Palestinians killed, could partly explain the most recent shift in Democrats’ perspective.”

Nearly 80 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the year, while 14 Israelis have died in attacks in an escalation of violence.

There has also been a sharp rise in settler violence, including a rampage last month in the West Bank town of Huwara, in which one Palestinian was killed and about a dozen injured.

“In principle, I think it is good when Americans are sympathetic to both,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute.

“Yet the US-Israeli relations strength has been built on twin pillars, shared values and shared interests.

"When there is no active peace process, Israel is often blamed, especially by younger Democrats who do not have memories of the Holocaust or the 1967 [Arab-Israeli] war.”

Mr Makovsky said the poll should be a “wake-up call” to the hardline Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “the twin pillars of shared values and interests is not to be taken for granted”.

According to Gallup, sympathy for Israel has historically been highly correlated with religion.

Those attending religious services each week have been much more sympathetic to Israelis than those who seldom or never do.

“Democrats’ waning religiosity may be a factor in the longer-term trend,” Gallup said.

Jeremy Pressman, director of Middle East studies at the University of Connecticut, said Republicans regard growing Democratic support for Palestinians as an opportunity to try to undermine support from an important constituency, American Jews.

"They paint this kind of Democratic sentiment as anti-Israel in order to inflame and try to win over political converts," Mr Pressman told The National.

But Israel is viewed favourably by most all-party groups in the US — 82 per cent of Republicans, 67 per cent of independents and 56 per cent of Democrats.

Relatively few among all three groups view the Palestinian Authority positively: 36 per cent of Democrats, 28 per cent of independents and 9 per cent of Republicans.

The small increase in the Palestinian Authority’s favourability rating over the past decade has been among Democrats — up 16 percentage points since 2013 — and independents up 14 points.

Updated: March 16, 2023, 7:27 PM