Yesterday Jennifer Rubin linked to a new poll and pointedly remarked that:
Perhaps the most interesting response comes to this question: “Given that Iran has publicly threatened to annihilate Israel, would Israel be justified in attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities?” 67% of Republicans, 47% of Democrats and 57% of Independents answer “yes.” That’s a rather startling and wide gap according to party identification, far wider than the gap regarding the generic “should we care about Israel’s security” query.
She is, no doubt, correct in writing that this is a “wide gap.” However, contrary to what readers might think, a 20% gap on Israel between American Democrats and Republicans is the norm rather than the exception.
Here’s one example from January 2009, regarding the Gaza war:
Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans back Israel’s decision to take military action against the Palestinians, but only half as many Democrats (31%) agree. A majority of Democrats (55%) say Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first, a view shared by just 27% of Republicans.
And here you can find two older instances of the gap:
Take, for example, a recent Gallup poll about Americans’ most- and least-favored nations. Israel, fairly popular with Americans, is “viewed more favorably by Republicans than by Democrats,” the survey reports. Eighty-four percent of Republicans rank it favorably, compared with only 64 percent of Democrats. This is hardly a new phenomenon: Back in 2006, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that Republicans favored alignment with Israel over neutrality in the Israeli-Arab conflict 64 percent to 29 percent. By contrast, only 39 percent of Democrats supported alignment with Israel, while 54 percent favored neutrality.
I can list many such examples, but I think the point is clear: Democrats’ support for Israel is not nearly as strong as Republicans’. Not even Democratic activists deny this, as was evident in a 2007 interview with Ira Forman, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council: “Most recent polls,” Forman admitted, “show Republican voters are more supportive than Independents and Democrats. Most of this difference is accounted for by the overwhelming support given to Israel by Evangelical Christians.” That indeed might be the reason for the “gap.” But explaining the gap is just another way of admitting it exists.