Hill Poll: President’s support for Israel found wanting by many voters

Three times as many voters believe the Obama administration is not supportive enough of Israel as believe it is too supportive, according to a new poll for the Hill.

The proportion of voters who now say the president does not give strong enough backing to Israel is higher than it was in each of three similar surveys conducted for The Hill since May 2011.  Correspondingly, fewer voters now find the White House’s policy excessively supportive of Israel.

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According to the latest Hill Poll, just 13 percent of respondents say the president’s policy toward Israel is too supportive. A full 39 percent said Obama is not supportive enough, the highest percentage The Hill Poll has seen. 

Over the past two years, recent surveys for The Hill show a fluctuating number of voters who believe the president needs to express stronger support of Israel.

In a poll for The Hill conducted in May 2011, 27 percent of voters said Obama was too supportive toward Israel, while 31 percent said he was not supportive enough. 

In September 2011, the proportion of voters who said Obama was too supportive of Israel went down,  and those insisting he was not supportive enough increased slightly.

March 2012 saw a slight uptick in the number of respondents who said Obama was too supportive of the Jewish state, to 25 percent, while slightly fewer voters, 32 percent, said the president was not supportive enough. 

Meanwhile, in the most recent survey for The Hill, a slightly larger percentage of likely voters say Obama is generally anti-Israel than say he is pro-Israel, 30 percent to 28 percent. The percentage of voters who label Obama as pro-Israel is up slightly from  a September 2011 survey for The Hill, as is the number of voters who say Obama is anti-Israel.

Overall though, the data hasn’t changed much since 2011. In the September survey, 23 percent dubbed Obama pro-Israel, while 29 percent said the president was anti-Israel. In the most recent survey, 29 percent of likely voters said Obama is neither, which is a somewhat smaller figure than the 38 percent of voters who gave that answer in 2011.

These findings underline the American public’s concern about Obama’s policy on the Jewish state at a time of heightened fears about Iran’s  nuclear program. Israel has insisted that Iran must be stopped by any means necessary, including a military strike, from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration has expressed its preference for a diplomatic solution,  a posture that pro-Israel critics say is insufficiently muscular.

The White House appears to be refocusing on the U.S.-Israel alliance after spending the last few months on domestic issues. Vice President Biden is scheduled to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s upcoming conference Monday, and Obama will make his first visit to Israel as president later this month. 

Another question central to the U.S.-Israel alliance is how involved the White House should be in brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. According to the latest Hill Poll, a majority of voters said Obama should be somewhat or very involved in brokering a deal, while just 32 percent of voters overall said he should be not at all or not very involved in the process. 

By way of broad comparison, in a May, 2011 survey, just 24 percent said Obama should be more involved in brokering a peace between the two nations, while 50 percent of voters said Obama should not be more involved and a solid 26 percent said they were not sure. 

As Obama embarks on a second-term push to secure his place in history, the president is no doubt thinking about his global reputation. 

But according to a comparison of two recent surveys for The Hill, fewer voters now believe Obama has improved the United States’ standing in the world. 

In May 2011, 47 percent said Obama had improved the country’s standing, while 38 percent said Obama damaged the nation’s reputation. But in the Hill Poll’s most recent survey, just 37 percent said the United States is more respected internationally than it was prior to Obama taking office, while a full 43 percent said the country is less respected in the world. 

These findings were based on a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on Feb. 28 by Pulse Opinion Research.

Click here to view data from The Hill Poll.

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