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Public Opinion Polls Indicate Pervasive Dissatisfaction with Life in Israel and a Decline in Esteem

Opinion polls conducted in December and January on a wide variety of subjects indicate a pervasive dissatisfaction with life in Israel among the 1,200 respondents and a decline in esteem for the unity coalition government, according to an analysis of the results published in Davar Thursday by the pollsters, Hanoch and Rafi Smith.

The father-and-son team of researchers, whose polls command wide respect in Israel, found that large majorities perceived the government to be doing a better job handling foreign policy than dealing with social problems at home. There was sharp division over Israel’s involvement in the U.S. arms shipments to Iran.

Large majorities disapproved of Arabs living under Israel’s governance. Ultra-Orthodox Jews were also widely disapproved. But Orthodox Jews as such enjoyed a high approval rating while there seemed to be unfamiliarity and/or indifference toward the Conservative and Reform trends in Judaism.

Asked whether the unity government was better or worse since the rotation of power between Labor and Likud last October, 18 percent of the respondents thought it was better, 29 percent said “not as good” and 37 percent saw no change.

The respondents were divided almost evenly when asked if they would favor a similar unity coalition after the next elections. The answers were 46 percent “yes,” 45 percent “no.”

ATTITUDE TOWARD IRAN ARMS SALES AFFAIR

There was a similar split with respect to the Iran arms sales affair. Thirty nine percent believed that “Israel got unnecessarily entangled” in the U.S. arms shipments to Iran and 40 percent thought it did not. With respect to Israel’s sale of arms to Iran, 37 percent were in favor, 41 percent opposed and 22 percent had no opinion.

On arms sales to the Nicaraguan rebels known as Contras, 33 percent approved and 33 percent were opposed while 34 percent had no opinion. The Smiths saw the responses as indicating public confusion on the issue of arms sales.

The government’s handling of foreign policy received a 59 percent approval rating, down six percent from September, 1986. But only 31 percent approved the government’s handling of social issues while two-thirds of the respondents disapproved. About 63 percent agreed with the statement that “the attitude toward the elderly in Israel has deteriorated in recent years.”

The pollsters found most significant the responses to their question “Has your satisfaction with life in Israel recently grown or declined.” Only 13 percent said it had “grown” while 24 percent indicated “decline” and 60 percent registered “no change.” According to the Smiths, the responses indicate that “public morale is on the whole slightly on the decline.”

A majority of 49-46 percent indicated they would not criticize young Israelis who emigrate to find better economic and social conditions abroad. Fifty-one percent agreed that the lack of appropriate social conditions to absorb new immigrants in Israel was responsible for the decline of immigration in recent years.

ATTITUDES TOWARD VARIOUS POPULATION GROUPS

With respect to attitudes toward various population groups, Israeli Arabs were approved by 19 percent of the respondents against a disapproval rating of 45 percent. Arabs in the West Bank were approved by only eight percent and disapproved by 61 percent. But Israeli Arabs had a higher rating than ultra-Orthodox Jews, who were approved by 14 percent and disapproved by 66 percent of the respondents.

Orthodox Jews who are not “ultras” were approved by 54-17 percent. Conservative and Reform Jews received a 28-21 percent approval rating with 51 percent expressing no opinion. Neither the Gush Emunim nor the Peace Now movement was accorded high approval ratings, though the former was somewhat more popular. The Gush Emunim were disapproved by a 48-26 percent margin while disapproval of Peace Now was 58-17 percent.

According to the pollsters, “The main finding (is) a feeling of dissatisfaction as pertains to both the economic sphere and other aspects of life in Israel.” But they found that “To date, this atmosphere has had little affect on Israel’s political map. Support for the (Labor) Alignment bloc has increased slightly, though not to the extent of consolidating a Knesset majority.”

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