Two Weeks to Election Day: IDI Poll Reveals Jewish Israelis are in Favor of a Unity Government

September 3, 2019


Tamar Herman and Or Anabi, Israel Democracy Institute, September 3, 2019

With permission, read full article at IDI.

Abstract

* This month a decline was recorded in the public’s optimism about both the future of democracy in Israel and the future of security in Israel. In both domains, currently less than half the public looks to the future with hope.

* According to self-reporting, the rate of those who are following the September elections is less than the rate of those who followed the April elections. Among those who voted for the right-wing parties, the rate of those following the September elections currently exceeds the rate among voters for the center and left parties.

* Less than half the interviewees believe strongly or moderately in the propriety of the Israeli elections, a sharp decline compared to the rates before the April elections and immediately after them. The gap between the actual vote and reported results of the elections is attributed mainly to double voting and to manipulations by the local election committees. 

*The highest rate, (but not the majority) of Jewish Israelis prefer that after the elections a unity government is established, headed either by Netanyahu or Gantz. The second preference is a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu. Among Arab Israelis the leading preference is for a center-left government, headed by Gantz.

* A majority of the public, especially Yisrael Beiteinu voters, locates Avigdor Lieberman on the right and does not believe his repeated declarations that he will not join a government that is not a national unity government. Among Yisrael Beiteinu voters, the majority does believe their party leader’s assertions.

* The group in the Israeli public that would prefer to annex Area C, if President Trump were to give it a green light, is larger than the group that would oppose doing so. The Jewish public is divided on the question of whether it supports or opposes establishing a Palestinian state in the areas under Palestinian control if Area C were to be annexed to Israel. 

* The Jewish public’s preferred solution for the Palestinians who live in Area C, in case it is annexed, is to transfer them to the areas under the Palestinian Authority’s control. The solution preferred by the Arabs is to grant full citizenship rights to those Palestinians living in Area C who would opt to stay there if it is annexed. 

* A majority of the Jewish interviewees think the decision to bar the entry of the American congresswomen from the Democratic Party was right because their visit would have caused greater damage to the relations between Israel and the Democrats than barring their entry caused. A majority of the Arab interviewees think the opposite.

The National “Mood”

The downward trend in optimism about the future of Israeli democracy continues for the fifth month. In this regard only 43% of the entire sample (45% of the Jews and 31% of the Arabs) views the future with hope. A segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camp points to a majority, not large (58%), of optimists on the right and a minority of optimists in the center (31%) and on the left (17%).

Regarding the future of Israel’s national security, the rate of optimists in the entire sample declined this month for the first time to less than half (48%), presumably influenced by the growing tension in the north and the ongoing tension in the south. Among the Jews, half are optimistic; among the Arabs, about a third. A segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camp again turned up a majority of optimists on the right (59%) and a minority who are hopeful in the center and on the left (center – 37%, left – 39.5%). In all three camps there is a slightly higher rate of optimists about security than about the future of democracy in Israel.

Figure 1: “How do you feel about the state of democratic rule in Israel / the state of Israel’s security in the foreseeable future?” (Entire sample, %) 

Toward the September Elections

Interest in the elections – In the entire sample the highest rate of interviewees (39%) answered that they are following the September elections less than they followed those that were held in April. Thirty-six percent responded that they have followed both election campaigns to the same extent, while only 17% replied that they are following the upcoming elections more than they did the previous campaign.

Figure 2: Attending to the September 2019 elections compared to attending to the April elections (%, Entire sample)

Perhaps because of the Joint List’s return to the arena, the rate of Arab interviewees who testified to being more interested in the upcoming elections than in the previous campaign exceeds the rate of Jews who said the same about themselves (Arabs – 23%, Jews – 16%). However, in both publics the highest rate reported less interest in the imminent elections. 

A segmentation by voting for the Knesset in the April elections indicates that a higher rate is following the September elections on the right than in the center or on the left, with both of those camps showing apathy (or despair?) about what the future holds in store.

The Propriety of the Elections – As before the April elections and immediately after them, this time to we asked: “To what extent do you or do you not have trust in the propriety of the Knesset elections, that is, that the results to be announced will accurately reflect how the public voted?” It turns out that a considerable decline occurred in the rate of those who believe in the propriety of the Israeli elections – from two-thirds in March, before the elections, to 60% in April – immediately after them – to less than half (48%) in August! The disparity between Jews and Arabs on this matter is very large: 51% of the Jews believe in the propriety of the elections compared to only 30% of the Arabs. A segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camp shows not very large differences between the camps: 49% believe in the propriety of the elections on the left, 50% in the center, and 55% on the right.

Figure 3: To what extent do you or do you not have trust in the propriety of the Knesset elections, that is, that the results to be announced will accurately reflect how the public voted? March and August 2019 (%, Entire sample)

In response to the question of what defect creates the gaps between the actual vote and the official results, the highest rate said it was double or forged votes (30.5%); in second place – skewed counting in the local ballot-box committees (27%); in third place – threats to voters (14%); in fourth place – skewed counting in the Central Elections Committee (12); and in fifth and last place – involvement by people outside of Israel (11.5%). This ranking of the reasons for the impaired propriety of the elections is similar to the rankings obtained in March and in April, with a certain increase in the rate of those assigning the problems to the local ballot boxes.

Unity Government: The preferred government after the elections – Among Jewish Israelis there is a clear preference for a unity government headed either by Gantz (22%) or Netanyahu (17%); Second preference is a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu. Among the Arabs, there is a preference for a center-left government headed by Gantz. Note that these preferences are almost completely identical to those we saw before the April elections. 

Of significance here is the very high rate – more than one-fourth – of the Arab interviewees who chose the “Don’t know” option as an answer to this question. When these are added to those who chose the answer “None of them” (41.5%!), the situation that emerges is one of profound alienation from the impending elections among the Arab public.

Figure 4: Which government would you want to be formed after the elections? (%, Jews and Arabs)

The riddle of Lieberman – We wanted to know to what extent the claim, voiced by some on the right, that Avigdor Lieberman has moved from the right to the left has seeped into public opinion. So the interviewees were asked to locate him on a scale in which 1=left, 3=center, and 5=right. It turns out that about one-fifth of the respondents (19%) locate him at present on the left (grades of 1+2) and about the same rate situates him in the center (grade of 3). The highest rate (apart from those who don’t know) puts him on the right (grades of 4 and 5).

Figure 5: Avigdor Lieberman’s location on a left-right spectrum (%, Entire sample)

A segmentation of the Jewish sample’s responses by political camp provides an interesting picture. Among those who intend to vote for Lieberman in the upcoming elections, the large majority (83%) locates him on the right (17% in the center; no one assigns him to the left). Although with different rates, the same is true of all three political camps (Jews), indicating that the attempt to push him to the left in the eyes of the potential voters from that camp has succeeded only to a limited extent.

 Liberman on the rightLiberman in the centerLiberman on the left
Interviewees from the right511823
Interviewees from the center45397
Interviewees from the left72718.5

Avigdor Lieberman repeatedly says that his party will join only a unity government based on the Likud and Blue and White parties. We wanted to know whether the public believes him or does not believe him. It turns out that the majority (54%) does not believe these statements by someone recently, and frequently, depicted as holding the fate of the elections in his hands. 

Figure 6: Avigdor Lieberman states repeatedly that his party will join only a unity government that is based on the Likud and Blue and White parties. Do you believe him or not believe him? (%, Entire sample)

In other words, the public as a whole does not put great credence in his promise not to join a government that is not a unity government. However, among those who voted for Yisrael Beiteinu in the April elections, about three-fourths do believe Lieberman’s assertions that he will join only a government of that kind. Among Likud voters less than a fourth believe these avowals of his, but among Blue and White voters a clear majority believes them (58%).

To Annex or Not? 

In light of the rumors that President Donald Trump will give Prime Minister Netanyahu a “present” toward the elections in the form of some sort of green light for the annexation of Area C, we asked: “If the Trump administration announces support for Netanyahu’s declarations about annexing Area C, will you support or oppose such an annexation?” Forty-eight percent of the Jewish sample answered that they would support the annexation in such a situation compared to 28% who said they would oppose it. An especially high rate – about one-fourth – said they did not know what their position would be in that situation. In the Arab sample the rate of “Don’t knows” was even higher – about a third. Only 11% of the Arab respondents said they would support the annexation in this situation. 

Figure 7: If the Trump administration announces support for Netanyahu’s declarations about annexing Area C, will you support or oppose such an annexation? (%, Jews and Arabs)

A segmentation of the Jews’ responses by political camp yielded the quite foreseeable results: on the left, 79% said they would oppose the annexation of Area C; in the center, 34% would oppose it and 38% would support it; on the right, 63% would support it and 15% would oppose it. 

We went on to ask: “According to estimates, there are now about 200,000 Palestinians living in Area C. If Israel indeed annexes this land, what, in your opinion, should be done regarding these Palestinians?” Again especially high rates of Jews and Arabs chose the “Don’t know” option. Among the Jews, the highest rate (36%) favors transferring the Palestinians from Area C to territories under the Palestinian Authority’s control (on the right this rate comes to 46%). Among the Arabs, the preference is to grant full citizenship rights to those Palestinians who would want to remain in the land to be annexed (46%).

Figure 8: If Israel indeed annexes Area C, what should be done with the Palestinians who live there? (%, Jews and Arabs) 

Having found a high rate among Jews who favor the annexation of Area C as well as considerable support for transferring the Palestinians from there to territories under PA control, we asked: “If Israel annexes Area C, will you support or oppose establishing a Palestinian state in the rest of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria?” It turns out that the Jewish public is divided on this question: 37% say they would support it while 40.5% say they would oppose establishing a Palestinian state in the territories not to be annexed. As expected, on the left we found a majority for those who support setting up a Palestinian state; in the center, slightly less than half supporting it and about a fourth opposing it; while on the right, slightly more than half oppose it. It should be noted that on the right and in the center, the rate of “Don’t knows” is considerably higher than on the left.

Figure 9: If Israel annexes Area C, will you support or oppose establishing a Palestinian state in the rest of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria? By political camp (%, Jews)

Barring the U.S. Democratic Congresswomen from Entering Israel

Indeed, the event has already transpired, but it still is not known what impact it will have and whether it will not recur in the future. Hence we asked: “Some claim that Israel’s decision to bar the entry of the two American congresswomen from the Democratic Party was unwise because it will seriously damage Israel’s relations with that party, for which most American Jews vote. Others claim that barring their entry was the right decision because these congresswomen have antisemitic views and support a boycott of Israel, so that their visit would have caused Israel great harm. With which claim do you agree more?” Among the Jewish interviewees there was greater agreement with the second claim, namely, that the visit would have caused more damage (47%). A minority (25%) backed the first claim – that it was preventing the visit that caused greater damage. In the Arab sample the distribution of responses was the opposite: most thought that the damage caused by barring their entry was higher than the damage that the visit could have caused (41% vs. 12%). The rate of “Don’t knows” was high, especially among the Arab interviewees (Jews – 28%, Arabs – 47%). 

A segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camp shows that on the left, the majority (63%) supports more the claim that the decision was unwise and that preventing the visit would cause greater damage to Israel’s relations with the Democratic Party. However, in the center and on the right, those who consider that preventing the visit was justified because the visit itself would have caused greater damage are in the lead, though in the center the gap between the rates of those holding the two opinions was much smaller than on the right (center –40% vs. 33%; right – 58% vs. 15%).

The Israeli Voice Index is a project of the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. In the survey, which was conducted on the internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) from August 25 to August 29, 608 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 161 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population of Israel aged 18 and older. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was 3.7%± at a confidence level of 95%. The fieldwork was done by the Rafi Smith Institute under the direction of Rafi Smith. For the full data file see: https://dataisrael.idi.org.il