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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Politico Report on Gallup Poll Emits Whiff of Partisanship

We don’t hide our partisan leanings here at TDS, but we reserve the right to call out media which profess nonpartisanship, but appear to practice otherwise. Kendall Breitman’s report, “Gallup poll: Democrats losing sympathy for Israel” at Politico provides an example.
Lydia Saad’s Gallup post, “Seven in 10 Americans Continue to View Israel Favorably” reports on the 2/8-11 poll Breitman references:

A key reason Americans’ sympathy for Israel has solidified at a sizable majority level is that Republicans’ support for the Jewish state has increased considerably, rising from 53% in 2000 to more than 80% since 2014 — with just 7% choosing the Palestinian Authority. A particularly large jump in GOP sympathy for Israel occurred in the first few years after 9/11 and at the start of the 2003 Iraq War.
Democrats’ support for Israel has also risen since 2000, but not quite as sharply as Republicans’. Additionally, the percentage of Democrats sympathizing with Israel fell 10 points this year to 48%, possibly reflecting the tension between Obama and Netanyahu…The percentage of Democrats viewing Israel favorably is also down, currently at 60%, vs. 74% a year ago. Positive views of the Palestinian Authority are fairly scarce, but no lower than they have been in recent years.

Saad’s report does not reveal exactly how the questions were phrased. Gallup leaves it to the reader to figure out the precise meaning of the terms “support for the Jewish state,” “sympathizing” and “viewing Israel favorably,” devoid of any real context. Would it take up to much space to provide the wording of the questions, or at least a link to them? Really?
Despite contradictions in the Gallup report, Politico’s headline writer goes with “Gallup poll: Democrats losing sympathy for Israel.” Breitman has no mention of the “60 percent of Democrats viewing israel favorably,” nor the increase in Democrats support for Israel since 2000.
The Politico report provides a convenient handout for Republican fund raisers targeting Jewish donors, right on time in the wake of the Netanyahu dust-up. I scanned a few dozen of the more than 2400 comments following the Politico article, but saw little besides splenetic pro- and anti-Zionist rants.
Yet, if ever there was a topic that cried out for serious nuanced analysis, but rarely gets it these days, public attitudes toward Israel’s policies and those of it’s adversaries could be exhibit “A.”
In my view, Politico often demonstrates a conservative bias, though I have posted comments on some of their articles which seem even-handed enough, and even a few which slant from the left. Their business model seems to be “conservative to centrist slant with an occasional liberal post.” There is nothing wrong with partisan commentary, as long as it doesn’t pretend to be objective reporting.
UPDATE: I lamented the lack of nuanced analysis too soon. TDS co-founding editor William A. Galston does exactly that in his Brookings.edu post “The complex American and Israeli politics of Netanyahu’s address to Congress.” As Galston notes:

…Last November, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 67 percent of Americans–including majorities of Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats–support U.S. leaders meeting and talking with the leaders of Iran. And 62 percent support the current interim agreement with Iran, which they understand to ease some international sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran restricting but not eliminating its nuclear program and submitting to tougher inspections of its nuclear facilities.
This solid support for the interim agreement suggests that the American people are inclined to accept the best results the current negotiations can achieve–namely, a long-term deal that leaves Iran with a substantial nuclear infrastructure, subjects it to rigorous inspections, and phases out sanctions over an extended period.
What should happen if the Iranians commit a major violation of the agreement? According tothe Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 60 percent of Americans (including 55 percent of Democrats) would favor a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Previous surveys–by CBS News, the Pew Research Center, and Reuters, among others–have found that Americans would favor a U.S. strike to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons.
These clear but complex public views will shape the American reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s forthcoming speech. On the one hand, Americans’ support for Israel remains very strong, and there will be visceral sympathy for Israel’s desire to abate what it sees as an existential threat. On the other hand, the evidence suggests that the American people would like to see their leaders strike a deal with Iran, even if it leaves some nuclear infrastructure in place, impose the toughest possible inspection regime–and harshly punish major violations. In short, Americans are willing to use force against Iran, but only after they have tested the consequences of a negotiated deal and found them wanting. If Americans regard Netanyahu as trying to block any agreement that is feasible in the real world and to set the United States on an inexorable course to war with Iran, they are unlikely to support him.

Galston’s analysis could be a template for nuanced and balanced poll analysis of highly complex attitudes of Americans toward the conflict between Israel and it’s neighbors.

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