Public trust in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to handle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has plummeted to a point where less than a third of the population continues to have faith in his policies, according to the results of a survey published Tuesday.
Although Israel managed to tamp down an initial virus outbreak earlier in the year it did so via a lockdown that brought the economy to a virtual standstill. As the restrictions have been lifted over the past several weeks virus infections have returned with a surge in the number of cases that has surpassed the first wave of the outbreak, leading to government threats to reimpose lockdown measures.
With the economy struggling to restart and hundreds of thousands out of a job, there has been anger at the government’s economic response and complaints of delayed and inadequate financial assistance.
The survey, published by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute, found that public trust in Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has “declined dramatically,” the IDI said in a statement.
It was the institute’s tenth in a series examining public opinion on government policies in handling the coronavirus outbreak and its economic impact.
Just 29.5 percent said they trusted Netanyahu to deal with the virus, down from 47% a month ago and a high of 57.5% in early April. Meanwhile 27% had similar faith in Edelstein. Less than half (40.5%) trusted government medical experts, down from 64% in April, and only 23% trusted Treasury and economy experts on the matter, down from 54% in three months ago.
Overall, 75% of the public had negative comments on the government’s handling of the virus.
Asked to choose from a selection of six words describing how they felt about government function during the crisis, 45% were “disappointed” and 22.5% chose “angry” while another 7% responded that they feel “alienated.”
Only 15% had something positive to say, with 7% choosing “satisfaction,” another 7% selecting “trust” and 1% “pride.”
On the religious-secular spectrum, the Haredi population was most positive, with 29% expressing upbeat emotions, although “disappointment” was still the most common term, chosen by 45% of that community.
Members of the ultra-Orthodox community, led by its lawmakers including government ministers, have recently complained that the community was being subjected to more enforcement than the rest of the population regarding orders orders to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
The IDI poll found significant worry among the general population over the economic future, with 69% of low income earners and 61% of average income earners, along with 35% of above-average income earners, saying they had concerns for their foreseeable economic wellbeing.
Infection with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is also preying on people’s minds, with 73% of Jewish and 75% of Arab respondents saying they feared that they or a family member would test positive for the disease.
The survey was conducted on the internet and by telephone on July 9-12 and sampled 621 men and women in Hebrew and an additional 156 in Arabic. The margin of error is 3.7%, the IDI said.
On Monday the cabinet approved Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz’s economic financial relief package.
Two TV polls Sunday also indicated a significant majority of Israelis are unhappy with the government’s, and Netanyahu’s, handling of the crisis.