Memo to Democratic leaders: Voters put Israel way down on list of U.S. allies

University of Maryland Polling - Apil 19, 2022

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  April 19, 2022

“The United States has no better friend in the world than Israel,” President Obama once said. But rank-and-file Democrats don’t agree.

Today Shibley Telhami published a new survey that shows that Democrats put Israel way down the list of important U.S. allies. The pollster writes:

Fewer than 1% of Democrats identify Israel as first or second choice among the two top US allies, behind eight other countries.

The U.K., Canada, Germany, Mexico, France, Japan, China, and South Korea all rate higher among Democratic voters– as you can see in the survey.

Telhami says the poll is evidence of a “growing… gap between elected Democrats and their constituents.”

Yes: that’s the dirty secret. Democratic politicians routinely refer to Israel as among our greatest allies. “The United States has no better friend in the world than Israel,” President Obama said, and Joe Biden has used similar language. Nancy Pelosi says Israel’s establishment was the “greatest political achievement of the 20th century” and America is Israel’s “oldest ally,” and the Capitol will crumble and fall before the Congress stops supporting Israel.

The numbers are WAY higher among Republicans and Independents. 20 percent of Republicans make Israel their top ally as a first choice, second to the U.K. And r percent of Independents — behind four countries. Only .5 percent of Dems make Israel their top ally as a first choice– and it’s ninth on the list.

The poll adds to evidence that the Democratic Party rank and file have starkly different views of Israel than the Democratic politicians– who rely on the Israel lobby to get elected.

Last year Data for Progress reported that 72 percent of Democrats approve of legislation to protect Palestinian children and families living under military occupation– but only 13 percent of House Democrats support the legislation.

Three years ago Telhami published data showing that the Democratic Party is also out of step with Democratic voters on BDS, the boycott campaign targeting Israel. His 2019 polling showed that Democrats largely agree with the goals of BDS.

Among Democrats who had heard at least a little about the campaign, 77 percent agreed with the idea that BDS is “a legitimate, peaceful way of opposing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories… [reflecting] the South African anti-apartheid movement” — while 19 percent agreed with the idea that it is an antisemitic movement, according to Telhami’s polling.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden and much of the Congress, too, have characterized BDS as an antisemitic campaign. And even liberal Zionist groups like J Street affirm this view. They’re not listening to the Democratic street.

As Telhami’s latest numbers show, Israel is just way more important to the Democratic establishment than it is to voters.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006