Poll: Americans still strongly back Israel

But new survey shows support dropped due to Gaza war; US voters say road to peace runs through Iran.

israel project 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
israel project 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A majority of American voters continue to show strong support for the State of Israel, yet the numbers have dropped off somewhat since the recent military operation in Gaza, a survey conducted for a nonprofit Israel advocacy group showed on Thursday. Of the Americans polled, 57 percent defined themselves as Israel supporters, compared to 8% who called themselves Palestinian supporters and 34% who said they were neither or were undecided. The survey, carried out for the Washington-based group The Israel Project, found that the number of American voters considering themselves supporters of Israel had remained steady since November, but had fallen off from a six-year peak earlier last year when 69% said they were Israel supporters. The number of American voters who identified as Palestinian supporters went up from 6% to 8% over the last three months. At the same time, the poll showed that fewer American voters felt the US should support Israel since the war in Gaza (58% in January compared to 66% in November), while those who said the US should not support either or who were undecided shot up from 12% to 23%, and the number saying that the US should back the Palestinians increased from 6% to 9%. "If you look at the cumulative data, we have lost some ground during the war," said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project. The survey also found that a majority of American voters - 55% - believed the Palestinian leaders were responsible for the violence, compared to 11% who said Israeli leaders were responsible and 23% who blamed both. A whopping three quarters of Americans polled had heard a lot or somewhat about the three-week war in Gaza, which began on December 27, compared to a quarter who had heard little or nothing about the recent conflict. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that prior to the military operation, they had been aware that Palestinian terrorists were firing rockets regularly at Israel for years, compared to a third who said they had not known. Similarly two-thirds of voters polled said they knew Israel had pulled out of Gaza three years ago and handed over the area to the Palestinians, while a third were not aware of Israel's 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the coastal strip. The survey found that the Palestinians were receiving more blame for the conflict than in 2006. Fifty-six percent of American voters blamed the Palestinians for the latest Gaza conflict, compared to 18% who blamed Israel. By comparison, in 2006, 45% of respondents blamed Palestinians for the violence, and 15% blamed Israel. At the same time, two-thirds said the Hamas leaders who control Gaza were responsible for the humanitarian crisis, compared to only 17% who faulted Israeli leaders. "Americans do understand that Israel values life and that Hamas values death," Mizrahi said. In one of its most far-reaching findings, the survey also found that an increasing number of American voters believe that the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is related to ideology and religion, and not to land. Only 19% of respondents felt the conflict was about land, while 73% said the conflict was about ideology and religion. A previous survey carried out last year found that nearly a quarter of Americans felt the conflict was about land - a stance that has long been the mantra of the Left and the international community. The survey also found that American voters felt that the importance of stopping Palestinian attacks and Iranian involvement in the region far outweighed longstanding points of contention such as settlements and opening Gaza's border crossings. According to the poll, 91% of respondents felt that getting Palestinians to stop shooting rockets into Israel was "extremely or very important" to achieving peace in the Middle East, while 90% said the same about getting Palestinians to stop teaching hate, and 87% said it was extremely or very important to stop Iran from arming, funding and training terrorists. An additional three-quarters of respondents said stopping Iran from gaining nuclear weapons was "very important" to attaining peace. By contrast, only 41% of respondents said that getting Israel to open the borders so goods and services could flow freely to the 1.4 million Gaza residents was very important to peace, while a mere 38% of voters said getting Israel to stop expanding settlements and to give up land to the Palestinians was "very important" to peace. Nearly 80% of respondents also said that the US must work hard to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, despite the economic problems America is facing at home. "This survey finds that Iran is job one for peace in the Middle East," Mizrahi concluded. The telephone survey, which was carried out between January 10-12 among 800 registered voters in the US, cited a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.