A new survey of international opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict found that respondents in most countries favor their governments not taking sides.
The survey, conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a consortium affiliated with the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that in 14 out of 18 nations, people say their governments should stay out of the fight. Two countries, Egypt and Iran, had a majority of respondents who favored taking the Palestinian side, while one, India, was divided. Among respondents in the United States, 71% said that the government should not take a side.
The survey is part of a wider initiative to poll international public opinion on hot-button issues, including treatment of women, governance, and oil prices. While WorldPublicOpinion.org has in the past polled Americans on their attitudes on the Middle East conflict, this represents the first time that they have examined global opinion. What is striking about the survey is how many respondents answered that they didn’t know how they felt when asked which side their country should take.
“I wouldn’t expect a ‘don’t know’ of higher than 5%, so this is about four times as high in the ‘don’t know’ category,” said Pini Herman, a Los Angeles-based Jewish demographer. “This tells me that this topic is not on these people’s radar screens. For most people, these are questions out of left field.”
In America, only 5% answered “don’t know” to the question of whether their country should take the Israeli side, the Palestinian side, or neither side. But on average, 15% of people surveyed — from countries including Mexico, France, Nigeria and Egypt – said they didn’t know. Herman said that finding showed that in America, the population is “obsessing” over the Middle East conflict, in contrast to other nations. In India, for example, nearly one third of respondents said they didn’t know when asked which side their country should take.
Not surprisingly, people in a handful of Muslim countries favored taking the Palestinian side. In Egypt, 86% said their governments should side with the Palestinians, and in Iran, 63% preferred supporting the Palestinians; the figure was 42% in Turkey. While no country had a majority of respondents favoring Israel, nearly one quarter of Indians weighed in for the Jewish state, and 21% of Americans favored taking Israel’s side. In the United States only 3% favored the Palestinians, the lowest of any country in the survey.
The poll surveyed 18,792 people with the help of research centers in each of the 18 nations included in the study.