Just one-quarter of Israelis trust Netanyahu to lead virus fight — poll

As cabinet mulls tighter lockdown, Israel Democracy Institute study finds growing numbers of Israelis fear for their economic future and distrust the government’s decisions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he arrives at the West Wing of the White House, September 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he arrives at the West Wing of the White House, September 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

Just over a quarter of Israelis, or 27 percent, say they trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the nation’s battle against the spread of the coronavirus, and fewer than half of Jewish Israelis are optimistic about the nation’s recovery from the crisis, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Trust in Netanyahu is down dramatically from the 57.5% figure seen in an April 4 survey by IDI, and even down from the 35% on August 13.

The sharp decline comes as new infections soared to nearly 7,000 over the past day and the death toll neared 1,300. Epidemiologists have warned that the number of seriously ill patients from the virus could double within three weeks.

Last week, the government announced a three-week lockdown, but included many exceptions to allow as many businesses and activities to continue as possible. As the numbers of sick have risen in recent days, officials have begun urgent discussions on tightening those restrictions. A cabinet vote on new measures is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

One of the problems with the current lockdown, officials say, has been the decline in public trust in the government’s decisions.

Police set up a temporary roadblock on Menachem Begin Street in Tel Aviv to enforce a coronavirus lockdown, on September 23, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In April, fully 62% of Israelis said they believed the government’s coronavirus restrictions at the time were “appropriate,” while 25% said they were “too lenient.” Just 10% said they were “too strict.”

In the latest study, just 32.5% said the new restrictions are “appropriate,” 29% said they are “too lenient” and fully 30% said they were “too strict.”

Trust in the government’s new coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu, a former head of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, also declined in the month since his appointment, though by a far smaller amount than in Netanyahu’s case, going from 59.5% last month to 51% in the study released Wednesday.

Nearly all the decline took place in the ultra-Orthodox community, the survey found, where trust in Gamzu — whom Haredim perceive as singling them out for censure and restrictions — dropped from 58% to 27%.

Asked if they were optimistic or pessimistic that the country will recover from the current crisis, the latest survey found the lowest level of optimism of any survey since March.

Israelis wear protective face masks at the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, September 16, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Just 48% of Jewish Israelis and 28% of Arab Israelis expressed optimism about the nation’s recovery — compared to 72% and 69%, respectively, in April.

Nearly two-thirds of Israelis, or 61%, say they fear for their economic future, with higher rates among low-income Israelis (71%) than high-income ones (47%).

Fears of the virus are expected to keep large numbers of Israelis home during the coming Yom Kippur fast, usually the peak day for synagogue attendance in the Jewish calendar

The study asked Jewish Israelis if they intended to attend synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement that begins Sunday night. Last year, 54% said yes and 39% said no. Those figures are reversed during the coronavirus period, with just 34% saying they will attend and 61% saying they won’t.

The study was conducted before cabinet discussions began Wednesday on the possibility of shuttering synagogues altogether during the holiday.

The survey is part of a series of 12 polls conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute about the government’s coronavirus response.

It polled 603 adult respondents in Hebrew and 151 in Arabic from September 15 to 17, and has a sampling error of 3.7%.

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