Pew Research Center: Democratic Support for Israel Plummets

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A recent study by the Pew Research Center has shown that support for Israel plummeted nearly 25 percent among members of the Democratic party in the last nine months.

Democratic party allegiance towards Israel has dropped 43 to 33 percent, according to the study.

For decades, Democratic support for Israel has been strong, with liberal supporters of Israel earning the slang pejorative "PEP" (Progressive Except Palestine), to describe the liberal dilemma in supporting the highly militant state.

The United States has historically been relatively bipartisan in its support for Israel. American Jews are typically inclined to be Democrats and every Democratic president has followed through with foreign policies that favor the Jewish state. However, while the overall consensus within both major party platforms has been generally unequivocal on Israeli support, Republicans have remained more inclined and more likely to support Israel than Democrats.

When Gallup first asked Americans about their attitudes towards Israel in 1988, the margins of support for Israel among Republicans and Democrats were very similar. Republicans favored Israel by a margin of 45 percent to 15 percent; Democrats 37 percent to 13 percent.

These figures also showed the average Democrat trailing slightly behind his or her Republican counterpart as Zionist supporters. The figures also reinforce the overall legislative and Congressional consensus on Israel reflected in a policy that remained consistently pro-Zionist across successive administrations.

Support for Israel surged among both parties post-9/11, dropping among Democrats and Independents in the years after. Still, Democrats tend to be more likely than Republicans to support Israel than favor Palestine.

Recently, however, support has been split. Among Democrats, opinion is divided between 33 percent in favor of Israel and 31 percent sympathizing with Palestinians. While, in some ways, these results reinforce decades of intransigent pro-Zionist policy from both parties, there also are many striking new changes that coincide with the nearly 25 percent drop in support for Israel reported by the study.
"This is a consistent pattern," said Ronald Stockton, professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. "Support for Israel was previously on the left. Now it is on the right."

Today, the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats over Israel is the highest recorded by Pew, with multiple sources projecting support for Palestine by Democrats at their highest in 15 years.

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Stockton identified the relationship each party has with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as one reason why relations have been noticeably volatile in the past year.

"Netanyahu responded [adversely] to the State of the Union, an insult to Obama," Stockton said.


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