Polls: Americans, especially Republicans, still viewing Netanyahu favorably


(JTA) — Despite controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, more Americans view him favorably than unfavorably, according to two separate polls.

Nearly twice as many Americans viewed Netanyahu favorably, 45 percent, as unfavorably, 24 percent, according to a Gallup poll taken Feb. 8-11 — after Netanyahu had accepted the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to speak and angered the Obama administration.

Gallup noted that Netanyahu’s favorability rating among Americans was up from 35 percent in 2012 and “ties his highest rating among the six times Gallup has measured it, spanning his three tenures as prime minister.”

A Pew Research Center poll of Americans conducted Feb. 18-22 also found more favorable than unfavorable opinion concerning Netanyahu, but with a smaller gap. It reported that 38 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of Netanyahu, while 27 percent had an unfavorable view and 35 percent have no opinion.

Both polls noted a partisan gap in views of Netanyahu, with Republicans much more likely than Democrats to view the prime minister positively. Gallup found 60 percent of self-identified Republicans holding favorable views of Netanyahu compared to 31 percent of Democrats. An equal percentage of Democrats, 31 percent, had unfavorable views of Netanyahu, compared to only 18 percent of Republicans with unfavorable views.

The Pew poll found 53 percent of Republicans viewing Netanyahu favorably and 21 percent viewing him unfavorably, compared to 28 percent of Democrats with favorable and 35 percent with unfavorable views.

Netanyahu will speak before the Congress on Tuesday.

Neither study found changes in American support for Israel, however.

Gallup noted that attitudes about Israel and the Palestinians “are unchanged from a year ago, suggesting that neither the evident friction between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor the 50-day conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year, greatly affected how each is perceived in the U.S.”

Sixty-two percent of Americans said in the recent poll that they sympathize more with the Israelis, Gallup reported, while 16 percent said they sympathize more with the Palestinians. The 2014 findings were virtually identical.

The Pew study noted that 48 percent of Americans said the level of U.S. support for Israel was “about right,” 29 percent said the United States was not supportive enough and 18 percent said the U.S. was too supportive of Israel. In a 2012 Pew poll, 51 percent said U.S. support for Israel was about right, while 25 percent said it was not supportive enough and 22 percent said it was too supportive.

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