There are two diametrically opposed mindsets among voters in the 2013 elections, The Times of Israel’s new poll shows.
Ideologically right-wing voters — 38% of likely voters — are optimistic about the direction that Israel is heading, give high marks to Benjamin Netanyahu for the job he is doing as prime minister, and show as much concern for security issues such as the Iranian threat as for domestic economic issues.
The almost exact opposite is true on the ideological left (16% of likely voters) and among centrist voters (36%). They view the country as heading in the wrong direction, give Netanyahu poor ratings as prime minister, and put socioeconomic and domestic issues far above anything else. They simply don’t see the Iranian threat with the same urgency right-wing voters do.
In our survey of likely voters, 35% believe Israel is heading in the correct direction and, among these optimists, 84% have positive views toward Netanyahu while 11% have negative views. In the other world are the 51% of likely voters who believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. Of these pessimists, 29% have positive views toward Netanyahu and 66% have negative.
For those voters who see Israel as moving in the correct direction, 67% believe Netanyahu is doing a good job as prime minister. For those voters who view Israel as moving in the wrong direction, 78% believe he is doing a fair or bad job.
The ideological divide stands just as stark. Of left-wing voters, 6% believe the country is heading in the correct direction while a huge 86% say the direction is wrong. Similar results are true among centrists: 27% say correct direction, 62% say wrong direction. In contrast, among self-described ideological right-wing voters, a whopping 58% believe the country is heading in the correct direction while 26% believe Israel is heading in the wrong direction.
Our poll tested several political personalities, asking likely voters whether they had a positive or negative view of Netanyahu, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, and Hatnua’s Tzipi Livni. Again, the division is clear.
Among the 53% of voters who view Netanyahu positively, 55% said the country was moving in the correct direction, while 28% said the wrong direction. Among the 41% of voters who view Bennett positively, similar data was revealed, as 53% said correct direction and 34% said wrong direction.
Moving leftward on the political map shows that of the 46% of voters who view Yachimovich positively, 31% see Israel moving in the correct direction and 57% in the wrong direction. Lapid and Livni share almost identical numbers — 36% correct direction and 54% wrong direction for Lapid, and 29% correct direction and 60% wrong direction for Livni.
Looking at what issues most concern different voters clarifies the picture further. Those who chose security issues such as the Iranian threat and instability in the region from Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon as the key issue for the next government were relative optimists in their view on the direction of the country. Those choosing domestic issues like education, economic challenges, and ultra-Orthodox integration were relatively pessimistic on the direction of the country.
The competing narratives define religious boundaries as well. Among self-identified Orthodox Jewish voters, 62% perceive the country moving in the correct direction while 20% view it moving in the wrong direction. Of self-identified secular Jewish voters 30% view the country moving in the correct direction and 59% in the wrong direction.
The difference between these two worlds is crystal clear, and it is the prism through which every analysis of this election must be viewed. It is certainly the prism through which campaign rhetoric and advertising will flow in these final two weeks before polling day. Likud-Beytenu will have to discuss its accomplishments and the work it is doing in a positive light, trying to move the needle by convincing more voters that things are moving in the right direction. Parties on the center and left such as Labor, Yesh Atid, and Hatnua will have to use negative and pessimistic rhetoric. Look for each campaign to latch on to news items that fit their outlook in order to further drive their narrative.
This is the sixth 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 by cellphone, and another 10% were conducted in Arabic. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, with a confidence level of 95%.
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.