The University of Maryland and Ipsos conducted a “Critical Issues Poll” from June 21 to 27 to probe Americans’ views on Israel, Zionism, and anti-Semitism. The survey asked a representative sample of 1,439 respondents, chosen randomly through telephone numbers and residential addresses, about their views regarding an important part of current debate in the United States. The margin of error was +/- 2.9 percent. As the US Congress receives Israeli President Isaac Herzog with standing ovations, the results of the poll present a changing picture of American attitudes that could impact future US policy in the Middle East.
One stark revelation from the survey was that a full 73 percent majority of the American public favors Israel’s democracy over its Jewishness, and would support a single democratic state with equality for Jews and non-Jews if the two-state solution were no longer a proposed solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In other words, if Israel were to maintain its control over Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip or to annex these territories, in addition to governing those Palestinians living within its 1948 borders, respondents would prefer to see full citizenship and equality for all. This majority included 80 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans (who are overall very supportive of Israel), and 58 percent of evangelical Christians (who are most supportive of Israel).
Note: These questions were fielded as part of a larger poll on foreign and domestic issues.
Q13. If a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians were not possible, meaning the West Bank and Gaza had to be under Israeli control indefinitely, which of the following would be closer to your view?
|1. I would favor Israel’s democracy over its Jewishness: I would support a single democratic state in which Jews and non-Jews would be equal, even if that meant Israel would no longer be a politically Jewish state.
|2. I would favor the Jewishness of Israel over its democracy: I would support preserving Israel as a politically Jewish state, even if that meant that millions of indigenous non-Jews living under its authority would not have citizenship and equal rights.||27%||12%||17%|
Q14. What is your impression of Zionism?
|1. Very positive||7%||2%||3%|
|2. Somewhat positive||7%||6%||5%|
|3. Neither positive nor negative||21%||16%||19%|
|4. Somewhat negative||3%||7%||6%|
|5. Very negative||5%||7%||6%|
|7. I don’t know||25%||28%||29%|
Q15. Which of the following attitudes constitute antisemitism?
|3. I don’t know||33%||27%||31%|
|3. I don’t know||38%||32%||36%|
|3. I don’t know||64%||62%||62%|
|Against Israeli policies||Rep||Dem||Total|
|3. I don’t know||49%||44%||48%|
Q16. What is your impression of how labeling people antisemitic is used in the American political discourse:
|Used to describe people who are genuinely antisemitic||Rep||Dem||Total|
|3. Not often||16%||11%||13%|
|4. Not at all||5%||3%||3%|
|5. I don’t know||34%||28%||35%|
|Used to delegitimize political opponents||Rep||Dem||Total|
|3. Not often||7%||12%||9%|
|4. Not at all||3%||4%||3%|
|5. I don’t know||34%||31%||36%|
|Used to delegitimize critics of Israel||Rep||Dem||Total|
|3. Not often||8%||8%||8%|
|4. Not at all||3%||3%||3%|
|5. I don’t know||37%||37%||39%|
Q17. What is your impression about the level of antisemitism in the United States compared to five years ago?
|3. About the same||29%||26%||26%|
|4. I don’t know||30%||23%||32%|
A surprising result showed that a majority of respondents (62 percent) were either “unfamiliar” with or did not know how they felt about Zionism, the ideology of Jewish settlement in Palestine. For those who were familiar with the movement, their positive and negative impressions of it were in the single digits, while 19 percent of respondents had neither positive nor negative views.
Alongside providing data about the debate regarding what constitutes anti-Semitism, the survey also showed that a plurality (37 percent) sees it increasing in the United States. The survey also showed a stark departure from current political weaponizing of the concept and practice that argues that criticism of Israel constitutes anti-Semitism. Of the 52 percent who expressed their opinions, 70 percent said criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, including a majority of Republicans. Importantly, however, a slight majority (51 percent) sees that anti-Semitism is being used to delegitimize political opponents in the United States, while a plurality of 49 percent thinks it is being used to delegitimize critics of Israel.
The results from this timely survey should force a reevaluation of US foreign policy in the Middle East, and specifically toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If foreign policy is an extension of domestic opinion and, in turn, of domestic politics, then the US government would do well to read the revelations in this survey carefully. A change in Americans’ opinions about Israel, Zionism, and what constitutes anti-Semitism is now taking place, and can help lead American politicians in their approach to one of the oldest conflicts in the world.