PeaceCast #204: Israel-Palestine in US Public Opinion

This transcript corresponds with Episode #204 of PeaceCast, which can be found here. It is a webinar with Dr. Shibley Telhami, an expert in public opinion on Israel-Palestine.

Ori Nir 0:04
Hello everyone. Welcome to this Americans for Peace Now webinar with Professor Shibley Telhami. I'm Ori Nir with APN and with me is Madeleine Cereghino. She's APN's Director of Government Relations. Before I ask Madeleine to introduce Dr. Telhami, two quick, quick reminders. One is that this webinar is being recorded. We will post the audio as an episode on our podcast PeaceCast later today and will also upload the video to our YouTube channel and you will find links to both on our website. The other comment is that you are welcome and encouraged actually, to ask questions during the q&a session by using the q&a button on your screen actually, you can start asking questions at any time, even now. Do not use, please do not use the raise hand button but but actually but rather the q&a button to ask your questions. Madeleine, please go ahead.

Madeleine Cereghino 1:08
Hello, everyone. I'm delighted to be introducing Dr. Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development and the director of the University of Maryland critical issues poll. He's also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And he has advised in one form or another every administration from George HW Bush to Barack Obama, his best selling book, "The Stakes: America in the Middle East," was selected by Foreign Affairs as one of the top five books on the Middle East in 2003. His most recent book, "The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East" was published in 2013. And I am delighted to have Shibley join us today.

Shibley Telhami 1:53
It's pleasure to be with you.

Ori Nir 1:56
Thanks. And Shibley's going to show a few slides that he's prepared for his presentation. And I'm going to ask Madeleine now to launch the presentation so we can all see it on our screens. And in a moment it will be shared for everyone. Great. Yeah. Is Yeah, that's that's good enough. sighs right. I think that's fine. Yeah. Great. So Shibley the floor is yours. Thank you.

Shibley Telhami 2:31
Great. Well, well, first of all, thank you for inviting me. And thank you for all the work you do on behalf of a just peace in the Middle East and your dedication, you know, especially during very challenging times for everyone involved. What I'd like to do is, is really tell you about some of the shifts that have taken place in American public opinion on Israel Palestine, by way of just presenting some of the most recent polling we've done after the Gaza War, and terms of public attitudes, and how they've shifted, and even the impact of the Gaza War itself, I think we can usually say with a relative degree of confidence that the Gaza War has impacted, especially democratic public opinion on the on Israel Palestine. I'll show that in some of those slides. But I think one of the starting points that we need to have is that, you know, there's always been a gap between the elected officials, whether they're in the White House or in Congress, and the public on Israel-Palestine, especially among Democrats. I've been documenting this for nearly a decade, where you see a wide gap where a democratic public is increasingly critical of Israeli policies want the us to be more even handed, and obviously, elected officials stick in a position to the right of their constituency on this. And the question is, in my ear that I've raised over the years, is this sustainable is just going to narrow over time, we've seen a little bit of that, even in this environment, were during the Gaza War, when President Biden failed to criticize the bombings that resulted in huge civilian casualties in Gaza, or even the Israeli plan to expel Palestinians from homes in in East Jerusalem. He got a lot of Democrats who were angry, including, you know, mainstream Democrats in Congress who said, you got to work to stop this, you've got you know, so he discovered that even even some of the Congressional allies in a highly polarized environment were somewhat critical of him and you will see why and how that impacted public opinion. So let me start with some of our findings. This This, by the way, was done in June or July of this year. So this A recent poll, obviously after both not only after the Gaza War, but also after Netanyahu lost power in Israel and the emergence of a national unity government, it really shows do that democratic constituents aren't buying the change so much to influence their opinion on Israel Palestine, because you can see that the war itself impacted their attitude toward Israel negatively, even despite nothing Yahoo's loss of power, which again, means that there's something direct here that seems to be independent of the changing government in Israel. Let me show the next slides. So this is really about approval ratings of, of Biden, particularly in terms of ending the fighting is his effort to end the fighting in Gaza. And you can see here, this is broken down by by Democrats and Republicans. But if you look at the black line, that is the one represents all Americans, and you could see that most Americans disapproved of Biden's handling. Now, even more strikingly, when you look at the blue line, under the disapproval though the bottom two blue lines, and you add them together, you have 27.7 of the democrats disapproving of the President's handling. Now, keep that in mind here. Keep in mind that when you look at Biden's overall approval ratings, even as they declined in the past couple of months, they the the disapproval among Democrats over all of his presidency has been less than 10%. really more like five and 6%, throughout the entire period since you became president. And so the fact that you have 27.7% is really huge. And when you look at that, among young Democrats, under 35, almost half of young democrats disapproved of the President's handling of the ending of the Gaza War for the fighting. Next slide.

So I want to show you, in part, why that is the case. Now, if you recall, the President himself pinned the blame, principally on Ms. And didn't, as I said, you didn't want, you know, refuse to directly criticize Israel and Israeli action. But when you ask them when you ask the public who to whom they blame for the crisis? Sure, you've got the partisan divide, which is clearly Republicans overwhelmingly, you know, blame the Palestinians. But when you look at the Democrats, it's interesting. You got 52%, I say both equally. But when it comes to blaming Israelis and Palestinians directly 35% 34.8 to be specific, the blame Israel and 80.1% blame Palestinians. So the blame is far more on Israel among Democrats than it is on the Palestinians. And that is even more true among young Democrats, people who are under 35. And next slide, please. So the question of applying pressure on Israel? I think, I have to say here, let me just note that I have been doing over the past decade, a lot of polling on settlements, specifically, whether democrats wanted, for example, to apply sanctions or harsher measures on Israel over settlements. So for much of the past decade, a majority of Democrats sometimes over you know, 60% wanted to apply, even sanctions or over the settlement issue. Never didn't really ask this question specifically, broadly, this is a question here, apply more pressure on Israel, including withholding aid. And again, if you look at the Democrats, which is obviously the constituency the President has to worry about the most, you can find that 43.7% say? Yes. And compared to only 8.5%, who say must apply more pressure on the Palestinians. I want to also highlight that on this issue. My polling is not the only one, as you see, in fact, in recent months and years, a lot of people who tried to emulate some of our questions have found exactly the same results. We know the Gallup poll, which showed a majority of Democrats now want to pressure Israel more and Now we've seen the pupil, again that trend over time with more criticism of Israel over time. Now we have the Council on Foreign Relations at the Chicago Council, public opinion poll, which was recently released. And I think I may have even the next slide. Could we see the next slide? It might be that right here. So this is Chicago Council, which was taken July 7 to 26th, again after the Gaza War. And it says, Do you support or oppose putting restrictions on US military aid to Israel, so that it cannot use that a toward military operations against the Palestinians. And you can see 62% of Democrats actually 50% of all Americans favor that. So the you know, this is even a larger part, it's obviously a different question than I had that I postulated. But essentially the same trend, the same sentiment being reflected.

Ori Nir 10:57
And maybe we should we should comment here Shibley that this issue for for those of us who are sort of Washington veterans in the past has been a taboo, it's been something that was not considered by either party as a viable option.

Shibley Telhami 11:14
No, exactly. Exactly. I mean, I think what happened, you know, you know, one of the things that happened over the past couple of years, you had mainstream Congressman, even like Chris Van Hollen, as some senator, a prominent senator, who I think is, you know, central mainstream on Israel-Palestine, suggesting linking aid, not military aid, necessarily, but but sort of creating some kind of linkage. So yes, I mean, I think we've they're increasingly, they're feeling where the public is on this, I think a lot of Democrats in Congress are really beginning to sense that their constituents are far more open to this idea than they have been over the years. The next one. So you can see here that more, more than half of respondents perceive their elected congressional representatives to lean more toward Israel than they do. Now, I have to tell you, of course, this is a question that I have been asking for 30 years, actually a little over 30 years. So that dates me a little bit, you know, sort of whether or not the American public on wanted the government to lean more toward Israel more toward the policies to be even handed, you know, majority of American public's have always, always all these 30 years wanted the us to be more even handed. But among those who wanted the US stick side, it used to be both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly wanted the US to take a side of Israel over the Palestinians. Now that has changed in recent years, particularly among Democrats. And we've seen that were overwhelmingly democrats want the US to be even handed. But among those who want to take Israel saw where they want to take one side or the other, they became far more even handed. And in the last couple of years, and I'll show you here, too, they've become actually slightly more leaning toward the Palestinians, and among young Democrats, even more so. So that's a big question. That obviously wasn't reflected in the positions of elected officials in Congress or the White House, for sure. And here, there was a direct question to all Americans, not just Democrats, whether the question was compared with your view on this issue? How would you describe the positions of your elected congressional representatives on it, that the congressional representatives are more leaning toward Israel than you are, that they're more leaning toward the Palestinians than you are? Or the matching your position? And so interestingly, here, take a look, I mean, you know, 56.6% of the public think that elected representatives are leaning more toward Israel than they are, that includes your republicans 44 44% say they're leaning more toward Israel than they are. I mean, that's really striking, but obviously, among Democrats 67.7% say, their elected officials are leaning toward Israel, and more than they are. So it's not just that we see that there's a gap between the actual positions of members of Congress and and the public. Democrats particularly, but it is perceived to be the case they know that their elected officials are to the right on this question. So that's really interesting. Next slide.

So here's the question that I described, which is leaning toward Israel. that's a that's a stock question. It is one that I repeat, even more than once a year. And I just generally try to track it. This is a tracking question. And as I told you, this has shifted over time. Where you used to have, we still have 62.7% look at that black line at the bottom 62.7%. That is, you know, the percentage of all Americans who want to lean toward neither side, we still have a majority who want to lean toward neither side will load dem republicans now, slight majority 50.7% want to outright lean toward Israel that didn't used to be the case 15 years ago, even 10 years ago. And but here's the interesting thing. So if you look at the first two categories, lean toward Israel, lean toward the Palestinians. And you look at the ratio, you find that almost twice as many democrats want to lean toward the Palestinians that want to lean toward Israel. 17.9% versus 9.5%. So that's really kind of a fascinating shift that has taken place among all Democrats, which is even more so unclear among young Democrats. Could you please show the next slide? So take a look here. And this is a something that I want you to see is just changed in one year, from August 2020. to July 2021. These are the two polls the same questions. Both very large sample is this sample this year by those over 3000. And these are for Democrats under 35 years old, the young Democrats. So check and see in, you know, in in August, you still had war Democrats, young democrats say they wanted to lean toward the Palestinians more than Israel 18.3 versus 11.4. But look at the change that occurred in one year, where now is 34.5% versus 9.1%. for Israel, that is a huge, almost, you know, you know, almost four times the number of people who want to lean toward Israel. Now, that's a that's a shift that must in given all of what I said earlier, is in all probability connected to the Gaza War. in all probability connected to the Gaza War, it's impossible to have that kind of shift in one year. This, by the way, is the largest shift we have ever seen on this issue in one year. And it is certainly the highest percentage of Democrats who want outright lean toward the Palestinians that we have ever captured. So clearly, there was a direct impact. And I say I reinforced that again, I'll repeat that this was taken also after the change of the Israeli government. And so even though not in Yahoo, which was obviously disliked by many democrats was out of the picture. And there was a sense that, oh, there's maybe an alternative that will be closer to the Biden administration, you still have this that people are not buying that that change is going to alter the view of of Israel on this one. Next slide. So I want to shift gears a little bit because I focus more on Democrats, because I think that's where the big shift has occurred. In terms of walking away from Israel, or Israeli policy, I don't want to say Israel, because this is not a question about supporting Israel and not supporting Israel. And I said, Even still, a huge majority of Democrats want to be even handed. I mean, remember that it's not it's not that this is a criticism of Israeli policy, obviously, not a anti Israel mood among Democrats. But when you look at the attitudes among young evangelicals, and I want to put that in context, it just take away the Democrats. For now, we know that the change among the republicans has been more and more support for Israel. And that had was even reinforced during the Trump years. And you can see now even in what I showed earlier, is still very strong. There's no clear evidence of any major shift away from Israel among Republicans. But there is an interesting trend that we have witnessed in the past few years. among young evangelicals, we know, in the Republican Party, actually, nationally, when I do a breakdown of the people who want to lean more toward Israel, evangelicals is the group that wants to lean toward Israel more than any other more than any other group period.

So we know that's really this the core constituency of Republicans who want to lean toward Israel. So what is fascinating is that there are major trends that show that young evangelicals may be walking away from Israel. This was started in recent weeks, when in North Carolina poll showed a major decline in the support for Israel among young evangelicals from 2018 to 2021. And as a result, I went and analyzed our own polling among evangelicals. I do measure polls among evangelicals, I'm actually working on a book on evangelicals, politics, and Israel. I've been doing it for over six years. And I have several polls that I've done in between that is focused on evangelicals and attitudes on this issue. So this is not just sticking evangelicals out of a poll, this is a weighted evangelical distributions that we have done over time. And in doing the analysis, can you please show the next slide? I define, you know, what we what we call young evangelicals are people again, under 35, that the North Carolina poll, define them as under 30. You know, is a small difference, but nonetheless notable. So if you if you look at this thing here, this is among evangelical Christians. This is just evangelicals, and born again, Christians, because there's the question, some people identify themselves as both evangelical and born again, some people don't. And we have that in here, as the two categories. So you can see the shift from 2015, to 2018. These are young evangelicals, born again, Christians. So take a look at how many people in 2015 wanted to lean toward the Palestinians. 3% and take a look at how many people wanted to lean toward the the Israelis 40%. Look at these, by the way, sorry, this is not the young image. This is all evangelicals. This is all evangelicals, who are on board again, Christians from from 2015, to 2018. So you can see that even among total evangelicals, a big drop where it's almost evenly divided among those who want to lean toward Israel lean toward the past in 2018. That's even before the North Carolina poll was taken. And next slide, then I'll show the ones right here that are, oh, this is the North Carolina port. Forgive me, let me go back. I'm sorry, I've made a mistake. It is it. This is the young evangelicals. I have it versus the blue is the young evangelicals, that the orange obviously is the over 35 evangelicals. So you can see that the it just essentially observed the blue line, which is clearly the one where the differences are. So if you look at the blue lines that the young evangelicals, and you could see the again, the huge shift from 2015 to 28, even before the North Carolina poll, let's go to the next one. That's an also show you that if someone was only three years Shibley, right, I mean that that's three years, and this one is from 2018 to 2021. And that was done by the North Carolina group.

Ori Nir 23:22
And was the was a 2021 poll taken after the Gaza War?

Shibley Telhami 23:27
No, before, that was taken before. And also it's not an identical question. So you know, you have to you have to see, it's actually whether you support with Israel, sympathy with Israel, the Palestinians. So it's similar but not identical. You can't compare apples and apples and oranges here. But they're close enough to tell you about a trend. You can't take the numbers to be exact, but you can take the trend. So what they found there, and also they define young evangelicals as 18 to 29, we go for 18 to 34. But you can see the trend among this group, you know, the again, big change from 20. You know, the orange lines 2018, the blue line is 2021. And so you can see the drop in the support. Fear of sympathy with Israel drops from 69% to 33%. And sympathy with the policy and increases from five to 24%. Now I can tell you what my speculation is on this because I've written about sort of what what we think is going on here. I would tell you that there are probably two major things, maybe three. One major thing is demographics. We do know that young evangelicals are changing demographically, for example, the even from a from 20 between 2015 and 2018. There was a major shift in the percentage of whites among evangelic young evangelicals. You In fact, young evangelicals became a minority among white evangelicals, Pan minority among young evangelicals. And we do know that white evangelicals tend to be the most supportive of a right wing Israel. And so there is a demographic shift. And it's, it's really traceable, it's significant shift that we have shown to have taken

Ori Nir 25:22
Just to make clear, majority of younger, the evangelicals today are non white.

Shibley Telhami 25:29
That slight majority, I believe it is the last one we've done. The whites are a little bit below half a little bit below. So that's a that's a fascinating shift that has taken place that is taking place as we speak among among evangelicals, evangelicals, Flashpoint, again, questions. So the second reason, I think, is that we've known that young evangelicals tended to be more apprehensive about Trump and frustrated with their, the embrace of Trump by the leaders with the many articles that were written about that. And that could be a possible reason, particularly for them walking away a little bit. And they associated Trump with being pro Israel because of the closeness with nothing out particularly. And I think the third reason is likely that like other young people in America, evangelicals now see Israel-Palestine, more through the prism of social justice than through geostrategic or biblical person. In fact, in North Carolina, Paul also showed that they see Israel less through the biblical prison, and like other young people who are impacted by movements that not just like, racial issues, but you know, climate change, liberal issues, but the Black Lives Matter clearly influenced a lot of people likely also influenced many young evangelicals. So there's a trend, we haven't really seen it yet impact the overall attitudes of Republicans on Israel. That's something to watch for. But it's fascinating that it's happening. Now. Let me just and I know we want to leave time for for questions. So let me just end with the following. There's absolutely no question. You know, I know people can poopoo all sorts of polling on this. But look, if you look at everybody who's done it now, pretty much is showing a trend, particularly among Democrats, evangelicals still need more study. I think that we haven't done enough among young you have a job to know if this is something that's gonna hold. But certainly among Democrats, we know I mean, it's not you don't even need to take polls to do it. You can see the discourse, you can see the language, you can see the coverage in terms of how there is a shift in support for Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. And and I think that we've, the question is whether it's consequential for politics. That's something that of course, I would happy to answer in more details, but just for, you know, a quick reflection. Certainly, that, you know, Israel-Palestine is not a top priority issue for most Americans. And that's what shields, you know, politicians from feeling the heat on this issue. We have so much more right now on our agenda. You know, whether it's the pandemic racial issues, the economy, climate change, and now Afghanistan and bigger issues, China, that obviously even people who are angry with politicians on on this issue, are not going to necessarily vote on the basis of it. And yet, I think we have seen already that it has impacted the electoral process it has impacted in primaries, where many, you know, politicians in democratic primaries have shown that actually, you can turn some criticism of Israeli policies into an advantage rather than a detriment in in electoral politics. I've seen that multiple times in the last two elect election cycles. And I would even posit that this issue of, of Biden's position on on Gaza could have hurt him in his overall ratings. We do know that over the past couple of months, the president's approval rating have diminished going down to 49%. And and that decline is almost entirely coming from Democrats is almost entirely coming from Democrats, there is a decline in democratic approval. Now, obviously, there are many issues by that's the case. It's not Israel. Palestine may be a small part of it. But it certainly didn't help. And there's no question that we have evidence that it certainly didn't help them, especially among young Democrats. I'll end with that.

Ori Nir 30:26
Thanks. Fascinating. I since we, you know, the the last topic of the conversation was the issue of evangelicals. I wanted to ask a question about that. If interesting, I remember that years ago, when I was still working for the Jewish Forward here in Washington, I did a story about the changing trends among evangelicals, which did follow generational lines, where younger generals were more liberal, on issues pertaining to the environment, abortion, and so on and so forth. Israel was not did not come into play yet at the time. Going back to the data that you showed, which I thought was really striking about the attitudes toward younger evangelicals toward Israel Palestine. Could it be that there's a connection between the demographic issue that you pointed out and the third issue, the issue and the fact that people in general tend to view Israel Palestine more toward a rights prism? that that is something that is that that characterizes the attitude of non whites? In other words, it kind of not have a cross sectional perception of of the conflict where they view it tore through the prism of rights in the United States, rights of minorities in the United States.

Shibley Telhami 31:52
Yes, I think that there likely is a connection. Let me just say two things. One, just to be clear, you're right, young people, young, you know, even the past young evangelicals, like other young people tend to be slightly different. Usually, it's slightly more to the left of, of their older, you know, follow older evangelicals and other Americans. But this, we have shown that the gap, the shift in attitudes among young evangelicals simply cannot be explained by generational. This is something bigger going on, though you don't have that kind of shift. And we've we've shown the trend across the nation in generation, this is much wider than you might expect. So clearly, it's not just generational. It is something else going on. But as you mentioned, yes, I think there's probably a connection between they're added between the demographic shift of less whites among the among evangelicals, and, you know, their their attitudes on on Israel-Palestine, seeing it more through the prism of social justice, as opposed to through biblical prophecy. And, yes, you're right. I think in general, we're not when I do the demographic analysis nationally, all Americans, non whites tend to be far more critical of Israeli occupation and policy and Israeli policy, then than whites. And so you know, that that now is clearly being reflected in the views of evangelicals themselves, given the shifting demographic makeup of the group.

Madeleine Cereghino 33:43
Thank you, Shibley. I was wondering if, um, you know, looking at this polling, if you think that the Palestinian leadership could capitalize on this shift in US public opinion, reading, creating a much more receptive environment for the Palestinian cause here. Are there ways for the Palestinians to better take advantage of this shift?

Shibley Telhami 34:03
Well, I don't know about what the posting leadership means or is right. I mean, I, I would if I were to, to look at Liberal Democrats and progressive Democrats who are especially critical of Israel, I would find that they're probably even as poor as almost as critical of the Palestinian Authority, if that's what you mean by Palestinian leadership, and, and many questions, even their legitimacy. So I don't think that initiative by the Palestinian Authority As it stands, given, its standing among the segment of the public that is more social justice based. I don't think it's standing allows it to take the initiative for that. The question is whether the peace movement, people who want just peace in the Middle East whoever they are, including Americans for Peace Now and others can use that as a as a as a way of influencing in the political process. And I think yes, obviously, I think there are lots of groups that have shown that it does. I mean, when when you, when you understand where the public is, then you have a lot of ways to impact the political process.

Ori Nir 35:26
Let me posit a hypothesis and see what you think about it. We were talking a lot about generational differences here. And generational shifts in attitudes. The older generation, in particularly in American politics, I think, tends to view Israel even not in in the context of its conflict with the Palestinians through the prism of the Holocaust. Could it be that the, you know, the, the the lack of proximity, which used to exist in you know, temporarily, with the Holocaust is also a factor here?

Shibley Telhami 36:09
Um, I don't know. I am, you know, obviously, the Holocaust is not only a prison, that has influenced a lot of opinion, but it clearly, Americans of all, you know, both right, on the left and the right, have been exposed to that prism. Right. So it's been, it's been something that that is part and parcel of the American discourse about Israel-Palestine, I am doubtful that that's the prison that has defined the positions of Democrats and Republicans over time, we do forget how anti semitism was so prevalent in America. You know, until you look at the I mean, we're talking about really at the relatively recently for the 60s and 70s. But But before the how a lot of the groups that are now supportive Israel have in the past taken positions, and some even now, who are really racist, and anti semitic in their views. So I am not one who thinks that that is really the driving force of American attitudes. It certainly is among liberals, and progressive as something and that's the interesting thing is that the groups that actually tend to be critical of Israel, but but because they their view is universal, anti racism, social justice, democracy, they clearly see the Holocaust as something that is an egg, you know, usually central experience that that has to also shape their opinion. So oddly enough, I think probably the most people, the people who are influenced most genuinely by the Holocaust experience are the people who also tend to be more critical of Israeli occupation, in my opinion. Now, it's not that people don't use it strategically, who are not, we have to differentiate between the rationalization of position and the experience as a driving force in the attitudes of people. And that's a debatable issue. I grant you that I think it's one, it's too big to tackle in this conversation. But it's something that has to be considered because I don't when I look at the history of the relationship between the US and Israel, I don't see it the same way. The narrative tells us about the Holocaust excuse even with Truman, I recently went back to read the letter, that Truman's friend who persuaded him to meet with Haim Wiseman, ultimately to listen to the idea of recognizing Israel, he was as you know, very reluctant to do so. And you look at the conversation, and it was not it was really about political end, but he had to be proud he had to be pushed to go along, to go along with that decision. So I think this you know, what is causing? What is it that has to be sorted out carefully.

Madeleine Cereghino 39:18
Thank you. So I have a question from the audience, about CUFI, that's Christians United for Israel. And, you know, a lot of the pro Israel of angelical traditional advocacy around this has been expressed mainly through CUFI and they're, you know, pretty traditionally, around as you would think of evangelicalism around this, and people are wondering if you've done any polling or CUFI membership is distinguished,

Shibley Telhami 39:47
Which membership I'm sorry?

Madeleine Cereghino 39:49
Christians United for Israel.

Shibley Telhami 39:51
Okay. Yes, no, I have not. I have not done that. But I want to tell you something. I don't know. You know, you There's been a lot of debate about how much of the following is and and that whether or not they exaggerate the followings. But I could tell you this, I have done a poll to try to figure out who is the most popular. You know, who's the most popular religious leaders among evangelicals. And I can tell you that none of them including hoggy get large numbers, usually they get less than 10% support. And sometimes they're not negligible support as a most admired leader. So it's more kind of constituencies that are focused on it. I think the one evangelical, you know, the the leaders who get the most are actually not even alive. And Martin Luther King gets more admiration that any of the names that are now being played out. So it's it's, I think we need to be careful. This is a very effective, well organized, political, religious group. And it does have intense support amongst certain constituency, it's not clear how pervasive it is. And the polling don't indicate that it's leader that is on the radar screen of most people who consider themselves to be evangelical.

Ori Nir 41:22
Thanks. I want to relate to questions from the audience regarding the recent Gaza conflict. One of them has to do with so the role of social media? In other words, can the dramatic spike a dramatic shift that we've seen in the data be attributed to the role of social media in this latest conflict? And the other question has to do it's more of a data question here. We're in a questions asked about which side was more responsible for the war?

Shibley Telhami 41:57
Yes, so yes, I mean, let's go back to the second slide, please. I'm just going to go back and display a slide two. Yeah. line three, actually. Slide three, which is the second who Yeah, who to blame for the crisis? So we have we have this question who to blame for the crisis. So you can see that it's very partisan, obviously. 59% of Republicans, the red line, blame Israelis and 31% blame both equally and only 6% blame for 5.9% to be exact. Blame neither. So Democrats, though, take a look. I mean, 52% say they blame both equally. But among those who blame one side of the other 34.8% blame Israel and 8.1% blame the Palestinians. I mean, do you know, more than four to one ratio or blame toward Israel among Democrats? So you know, that tells you the story right there. I mean, I think it you know, it's i think that's that's what Biden was dealing with, when people were not understanding why he's not at least criticizing both sides. Were you placing the blame, specifically, no blame on Israel at all, during that crisis? Now, the first part of the question, I'm sorry, could you repeat it? I this was about, oh, social media. Yeah. Social media? Yes, for sure. I mean, you know, we all trying to grapple with the impact of the social media, I actually study social media as well. I even have an academic article about the impact of Twitter with colleagues of mine came out a scientific journal recently on sort of his social media polarizing beyond the sorting people into like minded groups. And we found that yes, it clearly has an impact. And we we measured it very carefully over two polling experiments that we did. This was beyond this earth Palestine. This was a broadly about the impact of social media. So of course, we all try to figure out how much important important social media has is, you know, when you ask people, for example, about what is your main source of news, you know, television among young people is not the principal source of news. They're going online, whether it's their groups of Facebook or or, or Twitter or or Twitter is not even as popular among among younger people, but it's sure they're going they're going more online to get their news and friends. So there's no question that the social media has an impact, but I think there's been also the mainstream media has discovered that they're losing audiences. If they don't care to those groups, so you saw what happened with the new york times in terms of putting the faces of the children on the front page and people who, who were victims of the war. And and that's not something we had seen before in, in mainstream media. I mean, that was quite extraordinary. And there were there were attempts of catching up, so to speak, with with social media on this one.

Ori Nir 45:27
We have a a data question here, just one of them, which is also something that I was wondering about When, when, when I, you know, expressed amazement that the demographic data that you've presented, so one of our attendees is quoting a figure from a Pew Researc,h Pew poll, saying that only 8% of evangelicals are black. So the question is, what is the makeup let's let's move this way, among evangelicals, both younger and older, just so we get a picture?

Shibley Telhami 46:05
Yes, first of all, I don't have the numbers in front of me. But I want to say about pew pew is not only an excellent and probably the best source of demographic distribution, but there was so kind as to do hard work for me to map out the actual distribution, demographically across the country. And I use their demographic data for weighting my evangelical polls in terms of where the pendulum was distributed, both in terms of the age, race, as well as geographic, so and they I owe them a big debt, because they really, I mean, they went out of the way to mine their data, because they have 10s of 1000s of people over a long period of time, that they're able to do this, none of us have the capacity that they do. So I have a lot of respect for them. I don't know the exact distribution. But we have to make the following distinction. There is evangelicals, and there is born again, Christians, I want to repeat that, because that's not clear to a lot of people. I've discovered that in my early research on this issue, that they're not identical groups, that while almost all evangelicals consider themselves also born again, Christians, many of those who consider themselves to be born again, Christians don't consider themselves necessarily to be evangelical about it, they're divided in half actually, those you know, in the Borg equation, the born again, Christian tends to have a larger proportion of non whites in it, then evangelicals, that is one again, Christians will not evangelical. And some of them also tend to be democratic, not just Republican. And so we have to differentiate when people lump them together, as they do sometimes say, Are you evangelical? Christian slash one, again, Christian, we actually break it down into two categories to try to tease out the overlap and the differences. When you ask that question. Obviously, you know, not only will you find some differences along party lines, that you'll find demographic differences. The evangelical rights tend to be overwhelmingly white, the finding that among young evangelical, there's a trend away from that that's interesting that we find in two polls at least. Is this something that we can we can tell with a lot of confidence about the exact percentage? No, because what we can't tell is, even though we have a relatively large sample of angelical, it's, it's still too small to map out. Major demographic change. So it tells you that it's a trend, where more people are now non white. among young evangelicals, it doesn't tell you the exact numbers tells you that that's increasing. And that appears to be a factor in what is happening within among young evangelicals, specifically, and again, you know, the fact that we now have I had initially, back in 2018, I mentioned this, not with a lot of confidence, because I was waiting to see whether a lot of polls would show the same shift in among young evangelicals, the North Carolina poll, obviously we enforce that that's why I went out and put that article out to show that there's increasing evidence in that direction. We need to do more. As I said in my Brookings article, we really don't fully understand that we you know, those hypotheses I put on the table. Were what I call them, I call them preliminary speculations. informed speculations, but they're not. We don't have enough to map out at different demographics of the constituency.

Madeleine Cereghino 50:10
Thank you. And I was wondering, you know, how these really public has is responding or processing. And you can loop in the Israeli government as well to this shifting attitude. I know that there has been a strategy in approaching evangelicals. But do you see that changing now?

Shibley Telhami 50:32
Well, I don't know. Obviously, the the whole thing about evangelicals was principally a function of Likud. Because you know, the strategy of reaching out to evangelicals, you have to understand that that they spoke to the days of Menachem Begin It was really these really write that helped cultivate cultivate that relationship, dating back was reaching out for Jerry Falwell senior, back in the 1970, during Jimmy Carter days, and also kind of latching on to the Moral Majority and then reaching out to, to Jerry Falwell specifically with requests that are documented that we've found in the archives about, you know, like opposing harms due to Saudi Arabia or things of that sort. That the Israeli, the Israeli right has seen a great benefit in cultivating that relationship. Obviously, it was mutually beneficial for the evangelical right, as well, you know, this was a relationship that was emerging, and they were raising, and nothing, you know, more than any other Prime Minister, I think, and sought to cultivate that. And nothing ever became the real hero for American evangelicals in 2015, when I did a poll, you know, just at the beginning of the of the presidential election campaign, and I asked it open question, whom among world leaders? Do you admire? Most? open question? Nothing, I was slightly ahead of Ronald Reagan among evangelicals, as the most of my leader in the world. So there was a relationship that is cultivated, nothing else will made it more a strategy. We do know that his ambassador to the US, Ron dermer, certainly focused on it, it was even accused of hosting more evangelicals than than other groups in in the Israeli embassy. And he himself said, Maybe we should start shifting away from looking at American Jews as the main constituency and paying more attention to evangelicals. That's when a lot of people came against him. So I don't think that is that he reflected a prevalent view in Israel. And I think that, you know, Israel is clearly see that the benefit is support from the evangelicals in in the in the political environment. But I doubt that there is more than that. I doubt that is obviously there. It's not a value driven. Alliance, it is a, a an alliance of convenience, and most is real estate that way.

Ori Nir 53:22
I think we have time for one more questions that I'll try to wedge in, although it's maybe a big one, which reflects several of the questions that we've had from the audience. And that has to do so, you know, we talked about the increase in sympathies towards Palestinians. Maybe taught let's talk a little bit about the reasons for the decline in sympathies towards Israel, particularly among young people. And in the question is, and I realized that it's probably difficult to deduce it from you know, polling data. But does that have to do more with policies issues like settlements and the you know, the nature of the occupation and so on? Or is it something that has to do more with the image of Israel, particularly in the past in the in the past few years, the alliance between Netanyahu and Trump and the overall shifting rights of Israeli society and the Israeli policy?

Shibley Telhami 54:24
Okay, so let me give you my own take on this. And I think it's, you know, the short answer is it's both of these things, but but let me just say that when you look at the period, even prior to the Obama years, when we saw the the major tension between the US and Netanyahu and ultimately, the Trump years that were highly polarizing, and Israel was seen to be a Trump his country, so to speak, among Democrats, there was already a trend and we have tricked been tracing it because you can I've written about it multiple times, that reflected both demographic change within the Democratic Party, the rise of more African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women, young people, all these groups that have been more focused on social justice and see Israel more as an occupier increasing non anti Israel. There is no indication of that. And as I said, it's still overwhelming majority of Democrats want to be quote, even handed they're not want to be anti Israel, it is that they're shifting away from what used to be strong support for Israel. And it is driven by those issues, because when we ask questions specifically about issues, then you see the numbers rising over time. Now, of course, it's true that what happened in you know it under Obama, when obviously, there was a conflict, not only over the Palestinian question in settlements, initially, but especially about Iran and Netanyahu coming to the US Congress to give a speech behind the back of the president criticizing democrats seeing him more as pro republican than then a pro us. And and clearly during the Trump years, I said polarizing years seem Israel. Israel really, in some ways is domestic American issue. It's not just a foreign policy issue. And not in Yahoo. The fact that republicans think of him as one of their heroes, when they're you asked him an open question tells you the story he's seen as one of them. And obviously, Democrats seem a little, not quite the opposite, but certainly more the opposite than not. And so I think there's both of these are true. But I think doesn't matter how this evolved, that's what it is now. And there's no evidence that a new tone of an Israeli government that doesn't change the profound policies that have been anchored in the democratic minds in an era where social justice is the issue of the day for Democrats, the new Israeli government's going to shift that or change that as long as there's no shift in policy. And I can tell you something else, which is that, you know, my colleague, Mark Lynch, at the at the GW and I have last February, done a poll among scholars of the Middle East who are members of the American Political Science Association, or members of the Middle East service Association. And and we had a quite a large group over 500 people who responded 520 people who responded, and when you ask them, What is how would you describe Israel Palestine? Now, we had, like 55%, say, Israel, Palestine is now a one state reality, it came to operate to apartheid. And, um, you know, that is telling you that it's not just about policy, right. It's not just, it is about the entrenchment of the occupation after a half a century with no end in sight, that people find just absolutely unacceptable people who are focused on social justice issue, and I take that group, because I think, you know, sure, it's not going to represent the American public opinion or even the scholarly world period. But these people follow the issue closely. And they do tend to be quite ahead of a shift. And so I think there's there's something deeper that is going on. The question is, whether it's going to impact policy or not, it's not whether it's happening, it is happening.

Ori Nir 58:53
Dr. Telhami, Shibley, thank you very much. The two articles that were that we refer to here, the one about attitude following the Gaza War, and the one about evangelicals are both can be found on the Brookings website if people just search search under Dr. Telhami's name. And I want to thank Madeleine for co hosting this webinar. Shibley, thank you very, very much for joining us. Thank you to all the people who joined and to those celebrating I want to wish Shana Tova, Happy New Jewish year and happy holidays, shana tova. Thank you. Thank you.