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The 2012 Israel Favorability Stats

by Shmuel Rosner

March 16, 2012 | 6:06 pm

The stats below form what we refer to as the “Israel Favorability Index”, an attempt to more seriously follow the polls documenting the trends in the level of support for Israel among Americans. As you’ll be able to see in the analysis and the tables below, what Prof. Fuchs is doing here is of unique character.

Many polls ask questions about Israel’s favorability in different ways and wordings (e.g. What is your opinion about Israel, in general? What is your opinion about the people of Israel? Is Israel an ally of the United States?). What we’re trying to do here is put them all together and see what we can learn from them collectively. For example, Americans respond more positively to Israel as an “ally” than to questions of more general nature such as “what is your overall opinion of Israel?” (There are also less Americans who would not define Israel as “ally” than Americans whose views of Israel is “unfavorable”).

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As we keep developing this index, we also hope to develop our understanding of the drivers that push Israel’s favorability up or down. Some such drivers are obvious – note the huge bump during the first Gulf War (1991, see figure 1), but some are more complicated – see how 2006 was good for Israel as an “ally” but questionable when it comes to “favorability”. This might be a result of the different dates of the poll, relative to the major event of the year, the Second Lebanon War.

Figure 1

The trends in three specific aspects (or categories) of American public opinion on Israel have been analyzed by combining the data obtained from the responses for relevant questions about public opinion, conducted from 1989 to 2011.

The three categories studied were:
1) The extent of favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards Israel in general
2) The extent to which the American public views Israel as an ally of the United States
3) The extent of favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards the people of Israel themselves

NOTE: The wording of the relevant questions may obviously differ somewhat from poll to poll, but fortunately enough, we found differences only among the polls which asked about the extent to which the American public views Israel as an ally of the United States, and even in this case the differences were relatively minor.

1) The extent of favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards Israel in general

The table below presents the data on the dates and on the wording of the relevant questions for the polls that include a question related to the first category. The wording in all the relevant polls is identical. The analyzed results are the two sums of “favorable” and “very favorable” versus “unfavorable” and “very unfavorable”, which we denote as favorable and unfavorable, respectively.

                                                                     

Wording of the question Organization Polls analyzed
Is your overall opinion of Israel very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable or very unfavorable? CBS\NYT Every 3-4 years between 04/1998 and 05/2010
Is your overall opinion of [Israel] very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable? CNN 04/2009, 06/2010
Is your overall opinion of [Israel] very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable? Gallup Approximately twice a year between 03/1989 and 02/2011

2) The extent to which the American public views Israel as an ally to the United States

The table below presents data on the dates and wording of the relevant questions for the polls that include a question related to the second category. Unlike the other categories, we see that the wording of the CBS, CNN and CNN/ORC polls are identical, and ask for the respondents’ opinions about Israel in general. We denote “favorable” and “unfavorable” as the two sums of “an ally of the United States” and “friendly but not an ally” versus “unfriendly” or “an enemy of the United States”, respectively.

Similarly, the Rasmussen poll asks for the opinion about Israel in general, but the respondents were faced with three categories instead of four. A statistical model was used to split the middle categories between favorable and unfavorable.

The wording of the Harris poll refers to the Government of Israel (and not the State of Israel) and we denote as “favorable” and “unfavorable” the two sums of “a close ally of the United States” and “a friend but not a close ally” versus “not friendly but not an enemy”, “unfriendly” and “an enemy of the United States”, respectively.

Finally, in the polls conducted by the ADL, the question was posed as the statement “Israel can be counted on as a strong, loyal U.S. ally”, and the respondents were asked to indicate whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the statement. Naturally, we denote as “favorable” and “unfavorable” the two sums of “strongly agree” and “agree” versus “disagree” and “strongly disagree”, respectively.

                                                                                                                     

Wording of the question Organization Polls analyzed
Do you consider Israel an ally of the United States, friendly but not an ally, unfriendly, or an enemy of the United States? CBS 11/ 2011
Do you consider Israel an ally of the United States, friendly but not an ally, unfriendly towards the U.S., or an enemy of the United States? CNN 3/2010
Do you consider Israel an ally of the United States, friendly but not an ally, unfriendly towards the U.S., or an enemy of the United States? CNN/ORC 08-12/2006
Generally speaking, is Israel an ally of the United States, an enemy of the United States or somewhere in-between? Rasmussen Every 4-5 months between 09/2009-12/2010
Do you believe [that the]  government [of Israel]  is a close ally of the United States, a friend but not a close ally, is not friendly but not an enemy, or is unfriendly and an enemy of the United States? Harris 07/2007, 11/2009, 10/2010, 06/2011
Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that   Israel can be counted on as a strong, loyal U.S. ally ADL Every second year in October from 2005 to 2011

3) The extent of favorable versus unfavorable opinion towards the people of Israel: This was assessed in a single poll conducted in 2011 by CNN/ORC (see below) with the obvious definitions of the favorable and unfavorable options.

                                     

Wording of the question Organization Polls analyzed
What is your general impression of the Israeli people? As of today, is it very favorable, or somewhat favorable, or somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable ? CNN\ORC 09/2011

The computation of the plotted results

Since the polls were conducted at uneven time intervals, we attempted to create comparable indices by statistical approximations as follows:
a) The time period between 1989 and 2011 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.

As a more complex example, no polls on this topic were conducted during the entire year of 1990 at all. Since the average favorable rate for the second half of 1989 was 45%, and the average favorable rate for the first half of 1991 was 63%, we imputed for the two periods in 1990 the values 55% and 64%, respectively.

The indices of American public opinion towards Israel

a) Figure 2 below 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 Gulf War - when the favorable rates jumped to 74%, as compared to 49% and 45% during 1989. However, the favorable rates declined 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 last period recorded, the first half of 2012, the favorable rates reached 71%, similar to the 70% recorded in the previous period.

b) Figure 3 presents the favorable and the unfavorable rates for the question about whether Israel is or is not an ally of the United States. The American public has been asked to state its opinion in this matter since the second half of 2005.

The favorable rates were quite steady at about 70%, with an outlier peak of 82% in the second half of 2006.

c) The comparison of the favorable rates in the three categories of opinion towards Israel yields some interesting insights. Figure 1 (above) presents the graphs for three categories for the period between the second half of 2005 and the end of 2011. For the intervals in which both the opinion on Israel and the question on whether Israel is an ally of the United States were recorded, we observe that in general, the American public has a more positive opinion regarding Israel as an ally of the United States than it does about Israel in general.

Furthermore, the single poll (from the first half of 2011) which asked for an opinion on the Israeli people, the favorable rates were a somewhat disappointing 59%, as compared to the 70% who had in the same time period a favorable opinion of Israel, and the 74% who at the same time considered Israel to be an ally of the United States. The single favorable and unfavorable rates of public opinion about the Israeli people are marked on Figure 3 with two small squares.

Figure 2

Figure 3

 


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