Americans puzzled on 'Israel's democracy': Poll

Ahram Online , Friday 5 May 2023

Americans seem undecided over the state of Israeli democracy, according to the results of a recent poll released on Friday.

Jerusalem, Palestine
File Photo: With the Dome of the Rock shrine in the background, U.S. flags fly ahead of a visit by President Joe Biden, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. AP


The survey was conducted by the University of Maryland between 27 March 27 and 5 April, in collaboration with Ipsos' probabilistic KnowledgePanel, regarding how Americans feel about Israel.

The poll included 1,203 respondents with a 3.2 percent margin of error.

Respondents were asked to indicate which of the following definitions of Israel best reflected their opinions: a vibrant democracy, a flawed democracy, a state with limited rights for minorities or a state with apartheid-like segregation.

Over half of all respondents and over two-thirds of Republicans chose the "I don't know" response, which represented a significant percentage of all respondents. For a question concerning a nation that has been a key focus of American conversation for decades, and is often described as a democratic nation that aligns with American values, this degree of ambiguity was unexpected.

Among those who selected another option, an equal number – 31 percent – described Israel as either a flawed democracy or a country with segregation-like apartheid, while only 22 percent described it as a vibrant democracy.

Democrats and Republicans held opposing opinions; 14 percent of all Republicans said Israel had a vibrant democracy, while only three percent of all Democrats agreed with the statement.

Meanwhile, 21 percent of all Democrats and seven percent of all Republicans said that Israel had apartheid-like segregation.

Respondents were also questioned about their opinions on US policies towards Israel and Palestine in a tracking question. With just a tiny decline in respondents who wanted the US to support Israel, opinions were mostly unchanged from the previous poll in October.

Questions regarding the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign were also included. 39 percent of survey participants said they were unaware of the movement, while 26 percent said they "don't know."

Among those aware of the moement, the attitudes of individual for Democrats and Republicans were very different, with 41 percent of Democrats supporting BDS and 65 percent of Republicans opposing it.

The survey found that Democrats in particular are beginning to use the word "apartheid" more frequently, which suggests that attitudes towards Israel are shifting.

A recent Gallup poll indicates a significant shift in American perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with more Democrats expressing sympathy for Palestinians than Israelis.

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