Jewish Journal


So, what do Americans really think of Israel?‎

by Shmuel Rosner

May 17, 2012 | 9:03 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with President Barack Obama at the UN headquarters in New York, September 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

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.‎

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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. ‎

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