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Press ReleaseIsrael / Middle-East
ADL Poll Finds Americans Continue To Strongly Support Israel

JERUSALEM, December 17, 2003 A survey of American attitudes toward the Middle East released today by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) revealed that: Americans continue to stand squarely behind Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; are mostly positive about the US-Israel relationship; many believe that anti-Semitism is reaching dangerous levels in Europe and throughout the globe.


The nationwide poll of 1,200 American adults was conducted December 1- 4, 2003, by The Marttila Communications Group.

Among the main survey findings were:

  • Americans sympathize more with Israel -- 40% --than with the Palestinians 15%.
  • 39% believe the Palestinians are more responsible for the current violence; 16% blame Israel.
  • 70% of Americans believe Israel is more serious about reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians; 46% think the Palestinians are serious.
  • 75% believe that the U.S.-Israel special relationship is based on shared values of freedom and democracy.
  • 57% of the respondents said the U.S. has a moral obligation to combat anti-Semitism throughout the world through its foreign policy.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, and author of Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, said, "Despite the propaganda campaigns against Israel by the international community, the European Union, and the United Nations, to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish State, the American people continue to be fair in their assessment and understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."


Survey Highlights


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


When asked, "In the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians which side do you sympathize with more?" 40% said Israel, 15% said the Palestinians, 11% said both and 24% said neither.  (view graph)


When asked, "Who do you think is more responsible for the current violence in the Middle East: the Israelis or the Palestinians?" 39% blamed the Palestinians, 16% blamed the Israelis, 27% said both, and 6% said neither. (view graph)


When asked, "How serious is Israel about wanting to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians?" 70% said they believed Israel was serious (25% very serious plus 45% somewhat serious), 30% not serious.  The same question asked about the Palestinians, showed that only 46% believed they were serious, while 43% found them not serious about reaching a peace agreement with Israel. (view graph)


When asked about how they feel about Ariel Sharon, 42% said that the Israelis and their leader are genuinely interested in reaching a long term peace agreement; 36% thought the real goal of Sharon and Israel is to squeeze the Palestinians into the smallest territory possible. The similar questions asked about the Palestinians and Yasir Arafat showed that 25% felt they were genuinely interested in reaching peace, while 57% believe the real goal of Arafat and the Palestinian leadership is to destroy Israel. (view graph)


"These results show that by decisive margins, Americans are more inclined to trust the long-range intentions of Ariel Sharon than they are those of Arafat," said Mr. Foxman.


The U.S.-Israeli Relationship


Fifty-nine percent (59%) believe the U.S. and Israel are correct in their decision to stop dealing with Arafat because he has refused or been unable to stop the terror attacks against Israel. (view graph)


An overwhelming majority of Americans -- 75% -- believe the U.S. has a special relationship with Israel because of the shared values, including commitment to freedom and democracy.  Sixty-one percent (61%) believe that Israel can be counted on as a strong ally of the U.S. (view graphs)


"Americans, who hold democracy dear to them, have very positive views on the U.S. - Israeli relationship.  The survey clearly demonstrates that they understand that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and a strong ally of the U.S.," Mr. Foxman stated. "This is especially evident in the findings that show that while 73% agree that the U.S. is more likely to be targeted for terrorist attack because of support for Israel,  a majority -- 62% -- believe that the U.S. should continue supporting Israel, even if it means a greater risk of terrorist attacks against America."




In the recent Eurobarometer, a survey conducted for the European Union which asked Europeans to rate fifteen countries as a potential threat to world peace, 59% of Europeans said Israel was the greatest threat to world peace and 53% named the U.S.


The ADL survey asked the same question and found that 77% of Americans believe North Korea to be the greatest potential threat to world peace (Eurobarometer poll - 53%). Only 43% said Israel and 37% the U.S. (view graph) *


"This shows the real common sense of the American people. They know who true threats to peace are and who are not. It was shocking but not surprising that Europeans single out Israel as the one nation in the world that poses the greatest threat to world peace," said Mr. Foxman. "The barrage of European criticism of Israeli policies by European media and governments is often aired in a manner that taints the entire State of Israel.  Little mention is made of the strength of Israeli-European diplomatic and trade relations or the strong binds of history.

"The Eurobarometer results serve to confirm a dynamic that has been underway in Europe for some time -- that excessive criticism of Israel is fanning hostilities and hatred across the Continent, creating the climate in which anti-Semitism flourishes and in which governments rationalize it."


*Note to ADL's Poll Comparison to the Eurobarometer


ADL never believed the Eurobarometer poll was well structured, but we wanted to test not in terms of absolute reactions, but for comparison purposes only how Americans reacted compared to Europeans.  The findings in Europe that were significant were not the absolute percentages, the importance of which is hard to assess because of the poll's flaws, but the fact that Europeans found Israel to be the country of greatest potential threat to world peace, greater even than countries like North Korea, Iran,


The ADL findings showed that the American people, unlike Europeans, are sensible and not biased.  They overwhelmingly see North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria as countries of greatest potential threat to world peace.   The fact that Israel and the U.S. have certain percentages reflects the ambiguity of the question, but the important story is that Americans know where the real threats lie.




The ADL survey asked several questions about the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide. Many Americans -- 40% -- believe that anti-Semitism has reached its most dangerous levels since the 1930s. A majority 57% -- believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to combat anti-Semitism throughout the world as part of its foreign policy. (view graph)


The ADL survey, American Attitudes Toward the Middle East, was released in Israel by Mr. Foxman and ADL National Chair, Barbara B. Balser. "ADL has a long track record of taking the pulse of Americans on anti-Semitism, Israel, the Middle East, and democratic values. Last year we conducted surveys in ten European countries to better understand their views toward Jews and Israel. Monitoring and measuring levels of anti-Semitism enables ADL to develop programs and materials to counteract this age-old bias."


Questions asked of all 1,200 respondents have a margin of error of +/- 2.8%; questions asked to demographically proportional "split samples" of 600 each have a margin of errors of +/-4%.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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2003 Anti-Defamation League