Israelis favor Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton to succeed US President Barack Obama, but narrowly say Israel’s interests would be better served if controversial Republican candidate Donald Trump was to be voted in as the next commander-in-chief, according to a new poll.
The survey, commissioned by the Walla news site and carried out Thursday, found 38 percent of Israelis supporting a Clinton victory in the November 2016 race for president, followed in second place by Trump with 23%.
Runner-up candidates Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio trailed far behind with 7%, 5% and 4%, respectively. Republican contender John Kasich was not among the names polled.
Nearly one-quarter of respondents, or 23%, said they did not know who they preferred.
Pollsters asked 601 people, among them 499 Jews and 102 Arabs.
The study was led by Prof. Camil Fuchs and was conducted as part of the Midgam project led by Dr. Ariel Ayalon.
Arab Israelis lean more heavily toward Clinton than Jewish ones, the poll found. Among Arabs, Clinton leads Trump by 44% to 7%. The lead shrinks, but does not disappear, among Jews, with 37% for Clinton and 26% for Trump.
More than half of respondents, 51%, who said they voted for centrist or left-wing parties preferred Clinton, though her support was still a significant 25% among Israelis who said they voted for the right — despite years of acrimonious relations between Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Democrat Barack Obama.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s support was higher among right-wing Israelis, where he enjoyed 33% support than among left-wing or centrist ones, where support lagged behind at 18%.
These results seemed to contradict another finding of the Thursday poll: Trump and Clinton were all but tied on the question of whether their presidency would be good for Israel.
Asked which of the candidates best aligned with Israel’s interests, Trump won 25% of respondents to Clinton’s 24%. Among Jews, Trump led 28% to 22%; among Arabs, Clinton led 33% to 13%.
Asked to explain the gap of at least 14% of respondents who said they supported Clinton but did not believe she was best for Israel, a gap that grew to 15 points among Jewish respondents, Fuchs told Walla the Clinton brand was strong in Israel due to the continued popularity of Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton.
Then, too, Trump is a relative unknown to Israelis, and seen by many as an unknown variable when it comes to his foreign policies and ties to Israel. Support for the Republican candidate might be higher, Fuchs speculated, if the GOP front-runner was a more mainstream candidate.