As we approach the Democratic primary season and the 2020 election, President Trump and the GOP seem intent on politicizing support for Israel and using it as a wedge to pull voters away from the Democratic party.
The conventional wisdom behind these attacks — the notion that criticism of Israeli policy is a political liability or that voters oppose a more balanced approach to disputes between Israel and the Palestinians — is badly out of touch with the actual views of the Democratic electorate.
J Street’s new polling demonstrates that Democratic voters have nuanced views on these issues and are comfortable with candidates who support Israel but express disagreements with many of the policies pursued by the Netanyahu government.
Below is a digested summary of some top findings. For exact language and more data, please see the full results here.
STATEMENT: We should SUPPORT laws that penalize people who boycott Israel because these laws protect our democratic ally in the Middle East from hostile actors.
STATEMENT: We should OPPOSE laws that penalize people who boycott Israel because these laws infringe on the Constitutional right to free speech and peaceful protest.
Democratic voters pay attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they do not follow it super closely.
Democratic voters support Israel and Palestinians, but are not supportive of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Democratic voters prefer candidates who are supportive of both Israelis and Palestinians and is willing to exert pressure on each to achieve a peace agreement.
Would you be more likely to back a candidate who supports:
Would you be more or less likely to support a candidate who says the US has an active role to play in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that the next president should exert pressure on both sides to make the compromises necessary for a peace agreement?
Democratic voters see support for Israel and criticism of the Israeli government’s policies as totally compatible.
Do you think someone can be critical of Israeli government’s policies and still be pro-Israel?
There’s widespread support for reentering the Iran nuclear deal:
Despite the disproportionate focus on the BDS Movement by members of Congress and many pro-Israel organizations, the issue does not register for most Democratic voters. It is clear, however, that voters do not want to see candidates back legislation that penalizes Americans who back BDS.
How much have you heard about the BDS, or Boycott Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel?
Respondents were given two statements – one supporting laws penalizing BDS supporters and one opposing laws penalizing BDS supporters, and asked which statement was closer to their view.
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For the past decade, J Street has conducted election night polling of the American Jewish community.