The JT’s Feb. 2 editorial, “The New Pew Study,” characterizes the findings of a recent Pew Research Center report that examines public opinion toward Israel and the Palestinians.
Overall, the editorial correctly summarizes the data in the survey. However, it suggests that “there is reason to question some of its conclusions” and that other research indicates that “a vast majority of Americans still support Israel.” Throughout this report, we were careful to note that one of the questions in the survey asked, regarding the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, which side the respondent sympathized with more — Israel or the Palestinians. It did not explicitly measure support for Israel (or the Palestinians). In the report, we note that Democrats were divided: 27 percent said they sympathized more with Israel; 25 percent said they sympathized more with the Palestinians; another 23 percent said they sympathized with neither or both sides; and 25 percent said they didn’t know. We also report that, over the past year, the share of Democrats saying they didn’t know had increased from 17 percent to 25 percent and the share saying they sympathized with both or neither side had ticked up from 19 percent to 23 percent.
We understand that this forced-choice question about sympathies for Israel and the Palestinians alone does not provide a complete picture of opinions about Israel or the Palestinians. For that reason, we have asked about “sympathy” for Israel and the Palestinians in separate questions (i.e., one about sympathy toward Israel and another about sympathy toward Palestinians, in random order), most recently in March 2015. In that survey, majorities in both parties said they sympathized “a lot” or “some” with Israel, though Republicans were more likely to say this than Democrats.