March 22, 2013 | 1:52 pm
A drop of 5% in Israel's "favorability" numbers deserves careful attention. Prof. Camil Fuchs, the man in charge of J-Meter computations and statistics, has detected similar fluctuations in the past, but still thinks this one is more notable than most. Take a look at the new graph of Israel's favorability numbers (followed by some analysis and details on the methodology of this graph):
Our previous 'Israel Favorability Index' post followed the polls up to a year ago, February 2012, and documented the trends in the level of support for Israel among Americans. The index presented the trends in three specific categories of American public opinion on Israel – categories that have been analyzed by combining the data obtained from the responses to relevant questions about public opinion, conducted between 1989 and 2012. Those three categories were:
1) Favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards Israel in general.
2) The extent to which Americans view Israel as an ally of the US.
3) Favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards the people of Israel.
This post focuses only on the first of the three categories, i.e. “favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards Israel in general”, and presents the data from polls performed between 1989 and 2013. We updated the graph with the results from a recent Gallup poll conducted between February 7 and February 10, 2013. That's the only new data for recent months that's relevant to our current methodology of tracking.
The table below presents the dates, the sources and the wording of the relevant questions for the polls that include a question related to the question we're interested in here. The wording in all the relevant polls is identical. The analyzed results are two sums: of “favorable” and “very favorable” and “unfavorable” and “very unfavorable”, which we denote as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.
The computation of the plotted results
Since the polls were conducted with uneven time intervals between them, we attempted to create comparable indices by statistical approximations as follows:
a) The time period between 1989 and the first half-year of 2012 was divided into half-year intervals, and for each of the first two aspects of public opinion towards Israel, we averaged the results of all the polls conducted in the same half-year period.
b) Whenever there were gaps of one half-year or more between two intervals with actual data, we fitted a model of linear imputation for the missing intervals. For example, in the question about opinion on Israel in general, there was no data for the second half of 2009. Since the average favorable rate for the first half of 2009 was 69%, and the average favorable rate for the first half of 2010 was 63%, we imputed the mid-value of 66% for the in-between interval, and so on.
c) The last data point (from February 2013) was exempted from the half-year rule, and we present it immediately following the previous year point, from February 2012.
The favorability index of the American public opinion towards Israel
The graph at the top of the page presents the favorable and the unfavorable rates towards Israel for the entire period between the 1989 and the first half of 2012.
It is easy to spot the outlier result in the first half of 1991 - during the first Gulf War - when the favorable rates jumped to 74%, as compared to 49% and 45% during 1989. However, the favorable rates declined had again to 48% by the end of 1992.
Since then, the overall trend has been positive, with the expected local ups and downs.
In the previous recorded period, the first half of 2012, the favorable rates reached 71%, similar to the 70% recorded in the period before it. However, in the most recent poll, the favorable rates dropped a significant 5% (to 66%) and the unfavorable rates increased by 5% (to 29%), both polls recording 5% as having “no opinion”. As we've already mentioned, year to year rates fluctuate at times, and, as recently as 2009, we observed a drop in favorable rates between consecutive years of as much as 5%. Nevertheless, such a drop in one year still deserves careful observation and we need to assess whether this is the start of a negative trend in American public opinion towards Israel.
The recent Gallup world affairs poll asked the respondents about their opinion on 22 countries, and the results from the poll contain good news regarding the favorability rates towards Israel as well. Despite this year’s 5% drop, Israel’s favorability rates are still in the top tier, ranking 7th among the 22 countries. The favorability rates for all the countries below Israel are less than 50%, far less than Israel’s 66%. As for the lowest ranked country: it is Iran, with favorability rates of only 9%.
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