TORONTO (JTA) — Canadians were evenly split in their support for Israel and the Palestinians, according to a new poll.
The survey by the Toronto-based Forum Research found that 17 percent of respondents sided with Israel in the Middle East conflict, while 16 percent favored the Palestinians. Fully 64 percent said they lean toward neither side, and 3 percent said they did not know.
Despite Canada having the most pro-Israel government in its history, the findings reflected a drop in support for the Jewish state since the question was last asked in December 2012, when Canada voted against recognizing Palestine at the United Nations. At that time, 22 percent of those polled favored Israel and 15 percent leaned toward the Palestinians.
However, the latest figures closely resembled results in July 2012, when 16 percent of respondents leaned toward Israel and 17 percent toward the Palestinians.
Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, sees a “disconnect” between the latest survey results and past public opinion polls on Israel.
“In the past, there was a much stronger sense of identification with the Israeli cause,” he told JTA. The newest figures “give us cause to be concerned.”
But Dimant predicted a “dramatic” shift toward Israel in Canadian public opinion in light of current developments in the Middle East, including a Sunni insurgency in Iraq and the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian terrorists.
“I think the jolt to Canadians is going to be massive,” he said.
The numbers were culled from an automated telephone survey of 1,694 randomly selected adults. The margin of error is 2 percentage points.
In the poll, support for Israel was especially common among Canadians aged 55-64, at 23 percent; among males and middle-income earners, each at 21 percent; in Alberta and British Columbia, 20 percent; and among Conservative voters, 37 percent.
The survey suggested that support for the Palestinian side was most common among the young, at 20 percent; males, 19 percent; lower-income groups, 21 percent; and those earning $80,000 to $100,000 annually, 24 percent.
Support for Palestinians was high in Quebec at 22 percent and Alberta at 19 percent; among left-leaning New Democrats, 27 percent; those with a post-graduate education, 23 percent; non-Christians, 20 percent; those with no religion, 27 percent; and Francophones, 23 percent.