Israel Elections: Coronavirus fails to jab Israeli voters

How the government handled the pandemic did not impact how Israelis voted.

Israel Elections: Voting ballot, March 23, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel Elections: Voting ballot, March 23, 2021.
 Israeli voters may have cast their ballots with the shoulder they gave to get a coronavirus vaccine, but the government’s handling of the virus did not impact how they voted, according to a new survey.
Although the three-month election campaign appeared to center on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, when Israelis voted, it seems they left the crisis in another envelope, a new poll by the Israel Democracy Institute revealed.
The majority (56%) of Israelis said that the country’s management of the crisis only influenced which party they voted for to a small extent or not at all. Some 14% said it influenced their voting to a great extent.
Prof. Tamar Hermann, academic director of IDI’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, told The Jerusalem Post that the responses show that the effect of the vaccines had kicked in by the time Israelis voted and they therefore did not change their voting preferences from previous elections – part of why the country is stuck in a political stalemate once again with little indication of how the next government will successfully be formed.
“The coronavirus factor had sharply declined in the last couple of weeks” before the election, Hermann said.
Fear of contracting coronavirus and of the long-term economic impact of the crisis also went down.
The poll showed that only 28% of respondents fear getting coronavirus today, versus two-thirds just three months prior, before the vaccination effort began. At the same time, less than half of the public (45%) said they fear for their economic future, as opposed to three months ago or a year ago, when 54% and two-thirds said they feared for it.
Only among Likud voters was there a small majority (52%) who said that coronavirus influenced their decision to vote for a party.
Hermann said that Likud voters gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “much credit from bringing the vaccines. This was, of course, one of the targets of the anti-Netanyahu campaign, saying that it was not Netanyahu but the entire medical system that carried out Israel’s vaccination campaign.”
However, Netanyahu wanted voters to think otherwise. He greeted the country’s first shipments of the vaccines at the airport and regularly spoke about how he brought the country back to life.
At the same time, a relatively high rate of Yamina voters (48%) said the country’s handling of the pandemic influenced their decision to support Naftali Bennett, whose almost entire campaign centered on his plans for managing the pandemic and its economic aftermath.
However, Bennett only won seven seats, reiterating the notion that coronavirus did not have the influence that had been expected when the election was called.
“He certainly expected to get a much higher number of seats,” Hermann told the Post. “The fact that he got less than half of what he expected might be because of the relative relaxation regarding coronavirus.”
 Hermann believes that these voting patterns show the short-term thinking of Israelis at a time when “we still don’t know whether coronavirus has really gone away. It might well be that we are going to see a fourth wave and people in a way have stopped taking all the measures necessary to prevent catching it.”
On the one hand, she said, a vote devoid of coronavirus “may show some resilience of Israeli society.” On the other hand, “it may also show short-sightedness. We do not know; time will tell.”