New Poll: Democratic Primary Voters are Supportive of Israel and Simultaneously Critical of Israeli Government Policies

May 15, 2019

National survey finds Democratic voters most likely to back presidential candidate who acts as fair and impartial broker in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations

WASHINGTON, DC — A clear majority of likely Democratic primary voters have favorable views of Israel and believe it is compatible to hold these views and be critical of the Israeli government, according to a new poll. The poll found that most Democrats believe that the US should act as a fair and impartial broker for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The national survey, conducted by GBAO and commissioned by J Street, found that Democrats have a positive view of Israel (+25-point favorability) and the Palestinians (+13) and a highly negative view Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (-27). An overwhelming 75 percent say that they would be most likely to back a candidate who supported both Israelis and Palestinians, while a similar 74 percent say that they want the US to act as a fair and impartial broker rather than side solely with Israel.

The poll results, including the full survey, crosstabs and summary of findings, are available at

“The old playbook of unconditional support for the Israeli Prime Minister is clearly out of date, and presidential candidates should feel confident expressing both their support of Israel and their criticism of Netanyahu policies that violate long-held American positions,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there’s a clear path to a balanced, principled and forward-looking consensus position that the vast majority of Democratic voters are ready to rally behind.”

Democrats clearly believe that it’s compatible to be supportive of Israel and critical of its government. 81 percent agreed that “someone can be critical of Israeli government policies and still be pro-Israel” — including 92 percent of those who view Israel positively. 61 percent said they were less likely to support a candidate who believes that the US “must stand behind all of [PM] Netanyahu’s policies”, while 69 percent were less likely to support a candidate who says that the US “should continue financial and military aid to Israel without any restrictions, regardless of whether Israel expands settlements or annexes Palestinian territory.”

“Democratic voters support Israel, and hold nuanced views toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Choosing between the Israelis and Palestinians is a false dichotomy for these voters, and they want the US to play an active role as an honest broker that helps the parties reach a peace agreement,” said pollster Jim Gerstein.

The poll found that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel is a non-issue among Democratic primary voters — only 36 percent have heard even a little about it, while 63 percent have heard nothing. There is neither strong opposition (13 percent) nor support (12 percent) for BDS. At the same time, however, Democrats are clearly against legislation that would penalize people who boycott Israel and potentially infringe on the Constitutional right to free speech. 54 percent oppose such legislation, while just 22 percent support it.

At a time when the policies of the Trump administration are increasing the prospects for a dangerous new conflict with Iran, the vast majority of Democrats (72 percent) believe the US should re-enter the JCPOA nuclear agreement, including 45 percent who strongly support doing so.

When asked who they were currently planning to vote for in the presidential primary, 36 percent said Joe Biden, 13 percent said Bernie Sanders, 8 percent said Elizabeth Warren and 6 percent said Kamala Harris. Other candidates receiving at least 1 percent support included Pete Buttigieg (5), Beto O’Rourke (4), Cory Booker (3), Amy Klobuchar (1) and Julian Castro (1).

GBAO designed the questionnaire for this national survey of 800 likely voters in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. It was conducted May 1-5, 2019 via landlines and cell phones. The sample is subject to a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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