Yair Lapid, the journalist and TV news anchor turned politician, is well-liked throughout the country, with strong “favorable” ratings, driven by centrist and secular voters, The Times of Israel’s pre-election poll shows. His challenge is transferring his likability into votes.

Some 45 percent of likely voters have a positive view of Lapid, while just 31% have a negative view. Still, a full 24% of likely voters had never heard of him or offered no opinion, pointing to a need for Lapid to further share his background and beliefs. His Yesh Atid party polled at 11 seats in our survey. Can he lift it higher in the campaign’s final two weeks?

Lapid’s support, as viewed by self-described ideology, is staked deep into the center — with a big 66% of centrist voters giving him a favorable rating, or the equivalent of 28 seats in Knesset. Just 19% of centrist voters gave Lapid a negative rating.

Of all five politicians tested in the poll – Lapid, Shelly Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni, Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu – Lapid had the highest favorable rating among centrist voters, followed closely by Yachimovich. The data suggests that Lapid’s campaign should focus heavily on the center bloc of potential voters.

Religiously, Lapid’s voters are very secular, with 63% self-identifying as secular Jews, 24% as traditional, 8% as Orthodox, and 2% as ultra-Orthodox.

Despite such strong positive ratings and a clearly defined bloc of potential voters, Lapid’s Yesh Atid party appears to have hit a glass ceiling of 12 Knesset seats. To better understand his ability to translate likability into votes, the data was calculated to determine what percent of voters who like a specific politician say they intend to vote for him or her.

Not surprisingly, the three leading parties had a high percentage of favorables that became voters — 34% for Netanyahu, 22% for Yachimovich, and 19% for Bennett. Of those voters who have a positive view of Lapid, just 12% say they intend to vote for him. A huge 39% of those who give him a positive view still remain undecided.

His challenge will be to win them over by January 22.

***

This is the last in a series of nine articles that The Times of Israel is publishing this week on the basis of our pre-election poll. Formulated by The Times of Israel and the author, from political consultancy firm (202) Strategies, with field work conducted by TRI-Strategic Research between December 25 and January 2, our survey is the most accurate publicly available poll to date, having questioned a relatively large sample of 803 likely voters — as opposed to the Hebrew media’s norm of 500 eligible voters. Of those 803, also in contrast to the Hebrew media norm, 10% of our surveys were conducted to cellphones, and another 10% were conducted in Arabic. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, with a confidence level of 95%.

The methodology of the poll is detailed here and the raw results are here.

Stephan Miller, cited by Campaigns and Elections magazine in 2008 as “James Carville’s young protege,” is an American-Israeli public opinion research analyst and communications strategist, and a former adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who has worked on campaigns in eight countries across three continents.