Plurality of Americans view Netanyahu unfavorably, 26% don’t know who he is — poll

Republicans 32 percentage points more likely than Democrats to have confidence Israel’s premier will ‘do the right thing’ in world affairs

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Israel's Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks remotely to an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, November 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Israel's Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks remotely to an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, November 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Americans are more likely than not to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a negative light and a plurality of young Republicans have never heard of the longtime conservative premier, according to a survey published Monday by the Pew Research Center.

Netanyahu has long sought to present himself as an international statesman and has been jokingly referred to as the Republican senator from the 51st state of Israel due to his close ties to the GOP.

The Pew poll found that 42 percent of Americans do not have confidence that Netanyahu will “do the right thing” in world affairs, compared to 32% who do. The remaining 26% said they had never heard of Netanyahu.

The survey gauged Americans’ opinion of Netanyahu, along with six other world leaders — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Netanyahu was more favorably ranked than Putin, Xi and Modi, but behind the European leaders.

Zelensky received the strongest results with 56% of respondents saying they had some degree of confidence in his handling of world affairs, compared to 37% for Macron and 35% for Scholz.

Netanyahu and Putin were the only world leaders whom Republicans saw more favorably than Democrats.

Republicans were 32 percentage points more likely than Democrats to have confidence in Netanyahu — 49% compared to 17%.

Six in ten respondents who identified as conservative Republicans said they have confidence in Netanyahu, compared to three in ten who identified as moderate and liberal Republicans.

Among Democrats, 24% of conservatives and moderates hold a positive view of Netanyahu, compared to just 10% of liberal Democrats.

And while Netanyahu has long had a higher rating among Republicans, the survey indicated that this trend might not continue indefinitely.

Younger Republicans are less familiar with Netanyahu and view him less favorably than their older counterparts.

The survey found that 35% of younger Republicans (18 to 49 years old) had never heard of the Israeli leader. Roughly 30% of Republicans in this age group have confidence in Netanyahu, far less than the 66% of Republicans aged 50 and above who said they did.

Fifty percent of all respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said they had never heard of Netanyahu, compared to nine percent aged 65 and older who also had not.

Fifty-three percent of White evangelical Christians in the US have confidence in Netanyahu, compare to 17% of religiously unaffiliated Americans. Pew said there were not enough Jewish Americans in its sample to report their results separately.

The survey was conducted from March 20 to 26, days before Netanyahu announced that his government would pause its effort to overhaul the judiciary and hold negotiations with the opposition following months of mass protests across the country and pushback from leaders across the globe.

Pew polled 3,576 Americans and said the survey’s margin of error was two percentage points.

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