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Are Americans losing confidence in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?

26% of Pew Research poll respondents indicate they have never even heard of Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a news conference in Jerusalem, Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo: Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS)

The American public's views of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are more negative than positive, according to a recent Pew Research poll

The Pew Research survey looked at American attitudes toward select world leaders, such as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron and the Israeli prime minister. The poll found that “sizable shares of the U.S. public” had not even heard of some prominent world leaders. 

Twenty-six percent of respondents indicated they had never heard of Netanyahu, while 24% had never heard of Macron. This poll marks the first time Pew Research included the option “never heard of” as a possible response.

The poll found that 42% of respondents had no confidence in Netanyahu’s ability to “do the right thing” in world affairs, while 32% responded that they did.

The Pew Research team found that some world leaders’ views were delineated according to U.S. party lines. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to have confidence in Zelenskyy, Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, while Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have confidence in Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The poll found that younger Republicans, aged 18-49, were less likely to view Netanyahu favorably than older Republicans. However, that figure also reflects a gap in knowledge about Netanyahu. Thirty-five percent of younger Republicans said they had never heard of the prime minister. 

Netanyahu’s support was highest among white, Evangelical Christians. Fifty-three percent of respondents who identified as white, Evangelical Christians expressed confidence in Netanyahu. Only 17% of religiously unaffiliated respondents expressed confidence in him. The survey did not have a large enough sample of Jewish respondents to separate out. 

The survey found a significant difference between age groups in knowledge about world leaders, as well. Respondents over the age of 65 were much more likely to be familiar with the major world leaders than were respondents under 30. 

Almost 60% of respondents under age 30 had never heard of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while only 28% of respondents over age 65 had never heard of him. 

Of the respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, 50% had never heard of Netanyahu, while only 9% of respondents over 65 reported they had never heard of him. 

While the poll results cannot be directly compared with previous surveys, owing to the inclusion of the “never heard of” option for the first time, the results indicate that Netanyahu’s favorable rating has dropped among the American population. 

In a 2015 Pew Research survey, 38% of respondents reported a favorable opinion of Netanyahu, with 53% of Republican-leaning respondents expressing a favorable view of Netanyahu. 

The 2015 poll combined the options of “never heard of” with “no opinion of.” It showed a similar breakdown between young and old, with 45% of 18- to 29-year-olds saying they had never heard of, nor had no opinion about Netanyahu. 

However, the poll results are not all bad for Netanyahu, as the newer poll indicates that Evangelical support for the Israeli premier may have increased slightly over the last 8 years.

In 2015, 50% of Evangelicals expressed a favorable opinion of Netanyahu, while, in the new poll, 60% of Evangelical respondents expressed confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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