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1 in 4 Americans have not heard of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

More Americans, including younger Republicans, have a negative view of Netanyahu, according to new Pew survey

Around a quarter of Americans have not heard of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longtime prime minister, and those who are aware of him, don’t particularly have a positive view of him, a new poll published Monday shows.

The Pew Research Center survey of 3,576 U.S. adults, surveyed March 20-26, found that 26% of Americans, including 50% of younger Americans, have never heard of Netanyahu. 

The six-term Israeli leader, who has been in office since 2009 — with an 18-month break from 2021-2022 — grew up in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, attended college in Boston, and served as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. in the mid 1980s. Netanyahu has given more interviews to major U.S. networks and to American audiences in recent months, since the publication of his memoir, Bibi: My Story, than possibly any other foreign leader. Netanyahu delivered three speeches to a joint session of Congress, including a high-profile address in 2015, a rare occurrence for a foreign leader. (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to Congress in 2023.). 

The poll also shows that only 32% have faith in Netanyahu’s ability “to do the right thing regarding world affairs.”

The Pew survey looked at American attitudes toward seven world leaders including Netanyahu. Topping the list was Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, with a 90% name recognition and a majority favorability rating. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Among those with a negative view of Netanyahu are 49% of Americans ages 30-49, 56% of Democrats, and 37% of moderate and liberal Republicans. Pew said there were not enough Jewish Americans in the sample to report any results. 

A Pew poll of 1,000 Israelis published last year, ahead of President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel in July, found that 60% have faith in his leadership.

Monday’s poll comes after months of large protests against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul plan. Protests, though much smaller, spread to major U.S. cities and many Jewish leaders lobbied Netanyahu to back down from the judicial reform plan. Talks are ongoing at the Israeli president’s residence in Jerusalem, after the suspension of the legislative process, in an effort to reach a compromise.

In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press program on Sunday, Netanyahu mentioned his U.S. roots to push back against criticism. “I was educated in the United States in Philadelphia. I learned a lot about democracy in Philadelphia,” he said. “I read Locke. I read Montesquieu. I read Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson. And I didn’t just read them, I’m trying as best as I can to implement the principles on which I was raised right here in Israel.” 

The Pew poll showed that a majority of white evangelical Christians and Republicans have confidence in Netanyahu’s leadership, though younger Republicans — ages 18-49 — are less positive about Netanyahu than those ages 50 and older. Around a third of younger evangelicals and Republicans say they have never heard of the Israeli leader.

 

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