Poll: Israelis hopeful about smoothing civil divides but split on trust in government

Pew survey finds 19% on the left trust leadership, compared to 75% on the right; observant Jews more optimistic about prospects for religious cohesion than secular Israelis

A secular man and an ultra-Orthodox man fight during a protest against the drafting of Haredi Jews to the military, outside the IDF army recruitment office in Jerusalem, May 1, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
A secular man and an ultra-Orthodox man fight during a protest against the drafting of Haredi Jews to the military, outside the IDF army recruitment office in Jerusalem, May 1, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Almost nine months into the war against Hamas in Gaza, a poll released Thursday found that Israelis across the board are hopeful that they’ll be able to solve internal schisms but are split when it comes to trust in the government.

The Pew Research Center survey showed that the percentage of Israelis who see deep conflicts within their society decreased between 2023 and 2024.

Only 28 percent of Israelis said there are very strong conflicts between Jews and Arabs in the country, down from 46% last year. On the political divide, 24% of Israelis see a major conflict between the right and the left — down from 32% in 2023. And on the divide between religious and secular Israelis, 18% said there are strong conflicts — down from 29% a year ago.

However, some Israeli Jews are more hopeful about the prospects for religious cohesion than others. Ultra-Orthodox, religious, and traditional Jews (76%) were more optimistic than their secular counterparts (45%). Likewise, 71% of Israelis on the right said they were hopeful for peaceful coexistence among the country’s Jews, compared to 50% in the political center and 31% on the left.

The poll also found that views among those on the ideological left and right diverged in recent years. For example, only 19% of those on the left expressed trust in the government (26% in 2017), compared to 75% among right-wing Israelis (69% in 2017).

There was also a divergence between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis when asked whether they trust that the government will do what’s right for the country compared to 2017 data. Trust grew from 53% to 61% among Jewish Israelis, but dropped from 44% to 23% among Arab Israelis.

A banner depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is held up at an anti-government rally calling for the return of Israeli hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, Tel Aviv, June 8, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Differences were also noted in sentiments about the Israel Defense Forces compared to a 2007 Pew survey. Trust in the military among Israeli Jews was marked at 93% — up from 77% — while among Arab Israelis, it dropped from 57% to 34%.

The poll pointed to gaps across the ideological spectrum on which institutions and groups have a positive effect on Israel. For example, 74% of those on the right said religious leaders have a positive influence, compared to 24% of those on the left and 28% of those in the center. Similarly, only 58% of those on the left saw the military as a positive influence, compared to 83% in the center and 92% on the right.

But those views flipped when it comes to the fourth estate, the Pew survey found, with 81% on the left saying the media is a positive factor, compared to 74% in the center and 54% on the right. Attitudes on social media were similar; 70% of left-wing respondents said they see social media as a positive influence, compared to 63% among the center and 41% on the right.

Respondents were also asked to share their views about Israel’s political leaders. The survey found Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to be the most popular, with 61% reporting a favorable view of him, followed by National Unity leader Benny Gantz at 51%. Responses were gathered between March 3 and April 4, before Gantz left the emergency wartime government.

The poll, which included 1,001 participants, was taken amid the ongoing war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre. It came as several different segments within Israeli society were regularly taking to the streets to protest, on topics including recruiting ultra-Orthodox men to the IDF, securing the release of hostages held by terror groups in Gaza since October 7 and calling for early elections to replace Netanyahu’s government.

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