By Dr. Steven Windmueller
In a recently released report on “American Views Toward Israel and Palestinians,” the Pew Research Center noted the growing partisan political divide on the question of Israel:
“The partisan gap remains wide. Three-quarters of Republicans (75%) say they sympathize more with Israel (just 7% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians). And though a larger share of Democrats sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, that margin is much narrower (43% vs. 29%). By 52% to 19%, independents express more sympathy for Israel than the Palestinians,” Pew said.
For some Israel-focused voters in this election year, the data on the Democratic Party’s commitment to the Jewish state may be particularly troubling.
“There is also a wide ideological difference within the Democratic Party,” noted Pew. “By more than two-to-one (53% vs. 19%) conservative and moderate Democrats sympathize more with Israel. Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are statistically divided in their views: 33% sympathize more with Israel and 40% sympathize more with the Palestinians.”
Of particular concern is the declining support among younger Democrats for the case for Israel, which has significantly eroded over the past 10 years:
“The share sympathizing with the Palestinians has risen significantly in recent years, from 9% in 2006 to 20% in July 2014 to 27% today. The share sympathizing with Israel is little changed over this period,” Pew added.
This study will serve as a wake-up call to the pro-Israel community to focus more of its attention toward fostering its resources and energies in growing its relationships with younger Democratic voters.
Undoubtedly in this current presidential race, Democratic contender Sen. Bernie Sanders’s position of “even-handedness” on Israel will further contribute to the erosion of Democratic Party support for the Jewish state—by possibly giving license not only to party members, but also to politicians, to question the pro-Israel orientation of the Democratic Party and American foreign policy.
Dr. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. His writings can be found at www.thewindreport.com.