Republicans Love Israel (i.e., Hate Palestinians) But Democrats Are Not So Sure

A new poll by Pew Research shows Americans sharply divided by political party regarding support for Israel.

It is fair to say, on the basis of these polling numbers, that Republicans are solid supporters of Israel, political independents are less confident about that support, but still have a strong plurality in support for Israel, and Democrats poll most conflicted, basically seeing Israel and the Palestinian authority in Gaza, Hamas, as equally to blame for the “current violence” in Gaza.

The numbers break down like this, according to Pew’s graphic:
This graphic a plurality of Americans (40%) believe Hamas is "most responsible" for the current violence in Gaza. But that of course means that 60% of Americans do not think that. In addition, a clear majority of Republicans do blame Hamas more than they do Israel for the violence, while only a slim plurality of Democrats think Hamas is the real culprit in the current Gazan war. Independents are more reflective of the total. The large number of "DKs", don't-knows, suggest that only in the GOP is there strong support for Israel. Some Republicans are thinking that makes the difference a campaign issue, but again most Americans do not agree with the Republican position, and are closer to the Democratic Party point of view. Graphic from Pew Research report.
With such a huge break between political parties on the question, the Washington Post has raised the question of whether the Democratic Party position is dangerously anti-Israel—i.e., so out of the mainstream that it could cost the Democrats significant numbers of votes.

Well, it isn’t exactly the Washington Post’s liberal contingent asking this question, it’s Jennifer Rubin, the Jewish-American neocon blogger for the WP, who points out, in alleging Barack Obama’s “liberal” politics make him a natural enemy of Israel:
“Either out of conviction or because of a lack of support for Israel from his core supporters, President Obama, the most liberal president to hold office since the founding of the Jewish state, unsurprisingly has been the president least helpful to Israel in a time of war…This may give the GOP bragging rights when it comes to being the most pro-Israel political party, but it is bad news for Israel and for the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Rubin says that unless liberal Democrats—which Barack Obama is not, and most Democrats are not—are run out of the White House and from control of the Senate, the “US-Israel relationship” will “go south” (to Alabama?).

Trying to make political points on the fact Democrats are actually disturbed—more than Republicans—by the scenes of horrible suffering inflicted on so many Palestinians, mostly civilians and hundreds of children, by the Israeli military, just might be a big mistake for Republicans.

It is all too easy, and all too compelling (given the plenitude of the graphic evidence of Israel’s war crimes) to see a linkage between the Republican hatred of America’s poor and suffering citizens, and its indifference to the poor and suffering people of Gaza.

For the most part, as I pointed out in my story yesterday, Americans are actually quite ignorant about the reasons for US support for Israel, and about the large amount of money the US is giving to Israel to mount its daily slaughter of Palestinians.

In fact, the Pew Poll shows this with an especially large number of “DK” respondents, in other words people who simply “don’t know” what to think or why to think it about Israel’s mass murder of Palestinians.

And, in one telling poll question, the Pew study shows that over time, this has been where the erosion of support for Israel has been strongest.

Most of the numbers on this question about the proportionality of Israel's response in conflicts have remained static since 2006. While the crazy "Not gone far enough" people—who want Israel to murder even more Palestinian babies—have come back home from their "About right" vacation in 2009, the "About right" smugcluster has also given up votes to "Don't know", which jumped up 6 points from 2006. Americans are still far too complacent or even bloodthirsty in their polling on these most influential foreign-policy question,s but the pro-Israel contingent has lost its clear majority. Graphic from Pew Research report.
Compared to responses over time to the question about the “Israel’s response to conflicts” and whether that response had gone too far or been about right, the “about right” respondents have declined to the lowest level in eight years. But that has not meant the “gone too far” respondents have increased—they have only ticked up two points to 25% since 2006. But there has been a noticeable increase, six points, to 24% in respondents saying they “don’t know”.

The first step to people changing their minds is the erosion of confidence in their previous opinions to a place where they decide it is safer to just say nothing at all. For more and more Americans, this is the case about their former support for Israel.

Instead of viewing the Democratic Party’s more divided view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a problem for Democrats, the Republican Party should understand that, once again, the GOP is being left behind by evolving public opinion on the most influential foreign policy question the United States faces.