07/19/2006 - A substantial plurality of the American public has been steadfast in its support for Israel as the intensity of armed conflict in the Middle East has waxed and waned through the years. While Americans have on occasion voiced criticisms of specific tactics and operations undertaken by the Israeli government, their sympathy for the Jewish state has, with only minor variation, remained strong.
A Pew Global Attitudes survey taken in March through May of this year, before the outbreak of the current violence, found that in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, Americans were the most sympathetic towards Israel of 15 nations surveyed. Among the U.S. public, a 48%-plurality sympathized with Israel. Only 13% of Americans sympathized with the Palestinians, while 4% said both sides and 14% said neither side.
In surveys taken by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, sympathy for Israel over the Palestinians has ranged from highs of 48% in September 1997 and May 2006, to a low of 37% in July 2005. During this period the number of those saying they sympathized most with the Palestinians in their dispute with Israel never rose above the 21% recorded in September 1993.
Similarly in a January 2005 poll, 34% of Americans expressed the view that "bringing about a permanent settlement between Israel and the Arabs" should be the top U.S. foreign policy priority and another 42% said it should be a priority though not the top priority. These percentages have varied little in Pew polls dating back to 1993.
American attitudes toward U.S. policy in the Middle East have registered occasional shifts. A Pew poll conducted in July 2004 found a sharp decline in the percentage of Americans who said they regard U.S. policies in the Middle East as fair: 35% judged them fair, down from 47% in May 2003.
Read the full poll analysis The U.S. Public's Pro-Israel History In Mid-East Conflicts on the Pew Research Center Web site.