Democrats and Young Americans More Sympathetic to Palestinians: Survey

NEW YORK (JTA) – Democrats are more than four times as likely as Republicans to say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel, according to a new survey, and sympathy for the Palestinians among Americans overall is growing.

While self-identified Democrats are more likely to favor Israel over the Palestinians (43 percent for Israel vs. 29 percent for the Palestinians), they are far less sympathetic toward Israel than either Republicans or Independents, the new survey by the Pew Research Center showed. Among self-identified Republicans, 75 percent say they sympathize more with Israel and only 7 percent say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. Among Independents, 52 percent sympathize more with Israel and 19 percent with the Palestinians.

The findings show one of the widest-ever gaps between the two main political parties when it comes to Israel.

The new data is part of a telephone survey of more than 4,000 American adults between April 4 and 24 in which Pew surveyors asked respondents a range of questions about how they view the U.S. role in the world.

Among Americans overall, 54 percent say they sympathize more with Israel, 19 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians, 13 percent said they sympathize with neither side, and 3 percent said they sympathize with both. Compared to a similar survey conducted in July 2014, sympathy for Israel held steady while sympathy for the Palestinians jumped by one-third, from 14 percent in 2014 to 19 percent today.

Sympathy for the Palestinians is up most sharply among the youngest American adults, growing threefold over the last decade. In 2006, 9 percent of millennials said they were more sympathetic to the Palestinians; today that figure is 27 percent. The share of those favoring Israel has held steady at about 43 percent.

Older Americans overwhelmingly favor Israel over the Palestinians by a four-to-one margin, and Gen-Xers sympathize with Israel more by roughly a three-to-one margin.

Among liberal Democrats, the least pro-Israel grouping, more respondents said they are sympathetic toward the Palestinians than toward Israel: 40 percent vs. 33 percent. While the pro-Israel figure has held steady, the pro-Palestinian figure is the largest it has been in 15 years, suggesting that sympathy for the Palestinians is growing among these Americans who previously did not favor one side over the other.

Self-identified conservative Democrats and moderate Democrats favor Israel by a margin of 53 percent for Israel to 19 percent for the Palestinians.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton are more likely to favor Israel over the Palestinians (47 percent to 27 percent), while supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, are more likely to favor the Palestinians (39 percent for the Palestinians vs. 33 percent for Israel).

On the Republican side, conservative Republicans favor Israel somewhat more than moderate and liberal Republicans do (79 percent vs. 65 percent).

There is more optimism among Americans that a two-state solution can be achieved by the Israelis and Palestinians than skepticism that it cannot: 50 percent compared to 42 percent. On this, Americans younger than 30 are more optimistic (60 percent believe in the two-state solution than Americans over 65 (49 percent say it’s impossible). About 61 percent of Democrats say they believe a Palestinian state can co-exist peacefully beside Israel, compared to 38 percent of Republicans.

Overall, Americans are more convinced now than they were in August 2014, in the wake of the last Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, that a two-state solution is possible.

On other issues in the survey, 57 percent of respondents said they want America to deal with its own problems and let other countries sort out their problems on their own, while 37 percent say American should help other countries. Respondents identified ISIS as the top global threat America faces, followed by cyberattacks from other countries, the rapid spread of infectious diseases and refugees from the Middle East. The largest partisan gap on the threat matrix was on the issue of climate change: 77 percent of Democrats identified it as a leading global threat compared to 26 percent of Republicans.

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