Two polls on the eve of Barack Obama's Middle East trip show record high American public preference for Israel amidst widespread doubt about the President's own support for the Jewish state.
A Gallup poll out Friday found "Americans' sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs. 12%." Support for Israel has been "consistently" high but this number ties the highest figure in a quarter century.
By contrast, a poll done for The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, showed that by a three-to-one margin – 39-13 percent -- Americans feel the Obama administration is not supportive enough of Israel.
The proportion of voters who considered Obama too supportive shrunk since the last survey 10 months ago, while those who insisted he wasn't supportive enough grew.
A big factor in that change was probably the presidential campaign. Since the poll in May 2011, Republicans spent over $100 million largely aimed at portraying the president as at best an unreliable ally and at worst outright hostile to the Jewish state. That apparently had an impact in the November election, where he won 70 percent of the Jewish vote, a drop of about five points since four years ago.
The Hill also attributes some of the change to "heightened fears about Iran's nuclear program," suggesting greater sympathy for Israel's "muscular" approach than for Obama's "preference for a diplomatic solution."
In the most recent Hill survey, "a slightly larger percentage of likely voters say Obama is generally anti-Israel than say he is pro-Israel, 30 percent to 28 percent," the paper reported.
In terms of pursuing peace, a majority of American voters want the White House to be "somewhat or very" involved in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal, compared to 32 percent who prefer little or no U.S. role. That's almost a total reversal of where respondents were last year.
The Gallup poll, conducted last month, reveals a "steady increase in relative support for Israel over the past decade," the number who are neutral or have no opinion has declined, and preference for the Palestinians "has been relatively flat, generally in the mid- to high teens, before this year."
Support for Israel has increased among all three party groups since 2001, but particularly among Republicans and independents. Majorities of all three favor Israel.
Republicans, conservatives and older Americans are most likely to be pro-Israel, Gallup reported. As in prior years, Republicans tend to be substantially more likely than Democrats to favor Israel, 78% vs. 55%, with independents at 63%, Gallup found.
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