Poll: Israelis remain pessimistic on future of country’s security, democracy

Israel Democracy Institute survey finds majority don’t believe government will last until 2026; 84% of Jews say Israeli policy strengthened Hamas over the years

Demonstrators gather on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv to protest against the government and call for early elections and a deal to release hostages held by Hamas, April 6, 2024. (Ben Cohen/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)
Demonstrators gather on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv to protest against the government and call for early elections and a deal to release hostages held by Hamas, April 6, 2024. (Ben Cohen/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

The Israeli public’s outlook on the future of the country remains negative, a new poll published Wednesday showed, a trend that has been exacerbated by the past six months of war against Hamas in Gaza.

According to the survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, only 35 percent of Israelis are optimistic about the future of democratic rule in the country, and only 34% are optimistic about the future of national security.

The survey gathered responses from 606 men and women interviewed in Hebrew and from 149 interviewed in Arabic to create a nationally representative sample of Israel’s adult population.

The lowest recorded numbers in the poll — which tracked data between June 2022 and March 2024 — were seen in March 2023, when optimism about the future of national security was at just 30%, and optimism on the future of democracy was only slightly higher, at 32%.

Protests against the government’s planned judicial overhaul legislation reached a peak during that time, in the aftermath of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from his post, a decision that led to spontaneous mass protests throughout the country, a strike and a temporary pause in judicial legislation proceedings. Netanyahu froze the legislation and the dismissal in light of the massive pushback.

File: Israelis block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv during a protest against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul on March 26, 2023, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after the latter asked to stop the legislative effort. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Notably, there was a 4.5% increase in optimism on national security and a 6% increase in optimism on democracy between October and November, following Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel. However, the numbers have been on a downward trend since November.

When broken down by political camps, left-wing and centrist Israelis are less optimistic about the country’s security prospects and the future of its democracy than right-wingers.

The poll also asked respondents how much longer they think Israel will be able to continue its military campaign in Gaza. A plurality of Jewish respondents (39.5%) believe that the country will be able to continue the war until all its objectives are met. Among left-wing respondents and Arab Israelis, a plurality (37%) believe the country is only capable of continuing for a few more months.

Respondents were asked if they believe that, given the current circumstances, Israel’s leadership is doing its utmost to secure the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

In response, just 30% of Arabs said they believe Israel is doing what it can to ensure their release, while 52% of Jews agreed. Broken down by political leanings, there is a significant discrepancy between left-wing Jews — of whom just 23% think the country is doing what it can for the hostages — and the 66% of right-wing Jews who feel the same.

On Israel’s leadership, just 36% of Jews and 38% of Arabs believe the government has a “very high or fairly high likelihood” of completing its four-year term in office, which will end in 2026.

A further examination of respondents shows that Shas voters have the highest amount of faith in the government — 71% believe it will see its term through — and Meretz voters have the least, with just 7% of people thinking it will last.

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces then-interior and health minister Aryeh Deri during the swearing-in ceremony for the new government at the Knesset, December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On issues pertaining to the war in Gaza and the Hamas terror organization, there is less disparity.

Asked if Hamas should be recognized as a representative organization for large segments of the Palestinian population, 46% of Jews said it should be, and 46.5% of Arabs said the same.

The results remain similar when divided by political ideologies — 42% of left-wing Jews agree that it should be, as do 43% of centrists and 47% of right-wing Jews.

Similarly, 84% of Jews overall — 87% of left-wing and centrist Jews, and 84% of right-wing Jews — believe that the policies of the Israeli government toward Hamas in recent years made it easier for the terror group to carry out the October 7 massacres. When asked the same question, only 55% of Arabs agreed with the statement.

Among Jewish Israelis, the poll found that 94% believe Hamas bears a great deal of responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, compared to 61.5% of Arab Israelis who think the same. In contrast, while 52% of Arabs believe Hamas would cease to act against Israel if a Palestinian state was established, just 5% of Jews believe that this is the case.

Regarding a recent United Nations Security Council resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli hostages, 78% of Arabs said they believed Israel should have implemented its part in the resolution, while just 32% of Jews said the same.

The UN Security Council meets before voting on a resolution concerning a ceasefire in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, February 20, 2024. (AP/Seth Wenig)

Finally, respondents were questioned about Israel’s relationship with the United States, and more specifically, if they believed that the US’s decision not to veto the Security Council resolution indicated a retreat from its unreserved support of Israel.

Forty-one percent of Arab respondents said that it did, while at 51%, a majority of Jews indicated that they felt the same.

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