Only 17% of Democrats have favorable view of Netanyahu; 64% of Republicans

Survey of American attitudes to world leaders shows significant gaps between the two parties across the board, with Israel’s leader a particular focus of divergence

US President Donald Trump (left) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
US President Donald Trump (left) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

Americans’ opinion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sharply divided along party lines, a Gallup poll showed Tuesday.

The survey of attitudes towards various world leaders showed 64 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of the Israeli leader, while only 17% of Democrats felt the same. Among independents Netanyahu had a 30% approval rating.

The Israeli premier had an overall approval rating of 37%, with 29% disapproving, 13% having no opinion one way or the other and 22% saying they had not heard of Netanyahu at all.

Netanyahu has enjoyed very warm ties with President Donald Trump, a Republican, while his relationship with his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, was increasingly frought and hostile in the latter’s final years in office.

The partisan divide was also apparent in the attitudes towards other leaders, as Trump’s relations with most have been troubled. The UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May was relatively well balanced (54% Democratic approval to 48% Republican) but Democrats were far more supportive of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (67% to Republicans’ 30%) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (53% to 27%).

Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin saw significantly more support from Republicans, with 27% viewing him favorably compared to only 4% of Democrats.

A survey published in January by the Pew Research Center showed the partisan divide in support for Israel was “wider than at any point since 1978,” with 27% of Democrats saying they sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians, compared to 25% who said their sympathies lie with the Palestinians. Among Republicans, those numbers were 79% and 6%, respectively.

Sallai Meridor, who once served as Israel’s ambassador to the US, said then the development was worrying. “For Israel, the bipartisan support of the American people is a strategic asset,” he said.

Some experts later said they believed the poll was actually pointing to a drop in support for Netanyahu and his government, rather than the Jewish state as a whole.

Tuesday’s poll was based on phone interviews conducted with a random sample of 1,024 adults, and had a margin of error of 4%.

AP contributed to this report.

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