There’s no reason to disregard the BBC survey that ranked Israel as the third from bottom on the list of most-popular countries. Of course, the survey didn’t rank all countries in the world, and didn’t survey the public in all countries. But it did survey quite a number of them, and for Israel to only be more popular than North Korea, Pakistan and Iran is hardly an achievement. It is also not quite comforting to discover that this survey doesn’t just put Israel in a place in which it does not belong, it is a survey in which China - China - is more popular than the US. Namely, respondents in most countries believe that China has “more positive influence” in the world than the US.
Should one buy into the hype of Israel’s-image-is-going-down-the-drain? Yes, if one compares Israel’s ranking today to Israel’s 2011 ranking, and no if one compares Israel’s image today to its 2007 image (according to the same BBC survey). Back in 2007, Israel was viewed negatively by 56% of the public surveyed, positively by 17%, and ranked last among all nations, including Iran and North Korea. Today it is 21% positive and 50% negative. Not a cause for celebration, but also not terribly surprising. The BBC poll is becoming an annual humiliation that Israelis will have to learn to live with until the day the numbers change, if they ever do.
There’s one thing that is quite odd about this survey, though. According to the BBC, 50% of Americans see Israel positively, while 35% see it negatively. Does this make sense? Take a look at our J-Meter tracking of Israel’s favorability in the US (if you’re not yet familiar with the J-Meter, here is your chance). Our detailed index developed by Prof. Camil Fuchs finds that Israel is doing much better than the 50% positive given it by the BBC survey. True, the questions are different – the BBC asks a question that is a little strange: “Please tell me if you think each of the following countries is having a mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world”, while the polls we track at J-Meter are about “your overall opinion of Israel” and “Israel as an ally” of the US. Still such great differences seem suspicious: our index shows support for Israel is around 70%. That’s 20% higher than the BBC number.
And further oddity: According to the BBC survey, “Fifty per cent of Americans have a favourable view of Israel in 2012, and this proportion has increased by seven points. At the same time, the proportion of negative ratings has gone down six points to 35 per cent and, as a result, the US has gone from being divided in 2011 to leaning positive in 2012”. This in fact somewhat correlates with an increase in Israel’s numbers in other polls. For reasons unknown – and this is confirmed even by the relatively negative BBC assessment - 2011 was not bad for Israel’s image in the US: Positives went up, negatives down. Take a look at our favorability tracker to see it.