More than half of Americans (55%) have favorable views of Israel, while 41% say they have unfavorable views of the country. Notably, this is slightly more than the share who reported favorable views of the Israeli government (48%) and lower than the share who said they had favorable views of the Israeli people (67%) on a separate survey in March. Overall, U.S. public attitudes about Israel, the country, are more closely related to views of the Israeli government (correlation of +0.62) than to views of the Israeli people (+0.56), though both are positively associated. This is consistent with other Pew Research Center work on views of China (for more, see “When Americans think about Israel, what do they have in mind?”).4 5
Views of Israel vary markedly across age groups of Americans. While a majority of those ages 65 and older (69%) and ages 50 to 64 (60%) have positive views of the country, only about half of those ages 30 to 49 (49%) and around four-in-ten of those under 30 (41%) feel the same. Around a quarter of the oldest age group also feel very favorable toward Israel, while the youngest age group is more likely to say they feel very unfavorable (17%) than very favorable (10%).
Republicans and Democrats also diverge in their views of Israel, with a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (71%) saying they have a favorable view, compared with a minority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (44%). Views of Israel are particularly positive among conservative Republicans (75%) relative to more moderate or liberal Republicans (62%). Conservative and moderate Democrats (50%) are also more favorable toward Israel than liberal Democrats (36%).
Differences between men and women are relatively muted and related to women being less likely to offer a response. There are few differences based on people’s education levels, though those who have a college degree or more advanced degree (58%) are slightly more positive toward Israel than those who have less than a bachelor’s degree (53%).
Protestants (63%) and Catholics (58%) also have more favorable views of Israel than do the religiously unaffiliated (42%). Among Protestants, however, differences are stark: White evangelical Protestants (80%) have much more positive views of Israel than do White non-evangelicals (61%) or Black Protestants (43%). The survey was conducted among Americans of all religious backgrounds, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, but it did not obtain enough respondents from non-Christian religious groups to report separately on their responses.
Majority of Americans see relationship with Israel in good shape
Around three-quarters of Americans say relations with Israel are good, compared with 22% who think they are bad. In contrast to opinions on Israel, the country – which are highly partisan in nature – Republicans and Democrats largely agree on the state of bilateral relations: 74% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents describe them as good, and 76% of Republicans and GOP leaners say the same. There are also few differences between conservatives, moderates and liberals on this question.
Older Americans, however, are more likely than younger ones to describe current relations between Israel and the U.S. positively: 82% of those ages 65 and older say that relations are good, compared with 76% of those ages 50 to 64, 73% of those ages 30 to 49 and 63% of those under 30. College-educated Americans (78%) are also more likely to say the current relationship is in good shape than those with less than a college degree (72%), though much of this difference comes from the fact that those with a postgraduate degree are particularly likely to describe bilateral relations positively. Men are somewhat more likely to say that relations are good than women, though much of the difference is due to women being less likely to answer the question.
Views of relations are related to perceptions of whether Biden is appropriately choosing sides between Israelis and Palestinians, or not. Those who think he has struck the right balance (84%) or that he is favoring the Israelis too much (81%) are more likely than those who think he is favoring the Palestinians too much (72%) to say that relations are good.
Most Americans are not sure how Biden is handling the Israel-Palestine issue
By and large, Americans seem to have little awareness of how Biden is managing his relationship with Israelis or Palestinians: 62% say they are not sure whether he is favoring one side too much or finding the right balance (in the U.S., this was an explicit option for respondents; in Israel, that was not the case).
Among those who express an opinion, the most common answers are that Biden is striking the right balance (16% of the public says this) or that he is favoring the Palestinians too much (13%). Just 8% say he is favoring the Israelis too much.
At present, Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to say they are not sure how Biden is handling the relationship. But Democrats who offer a substantive response lean toward the view that Biden is striking the right balance, while Republicans who offer a response tend to say he favors the Palestinians too much. Conservative Republicans are more likely to view Biden as favoring the Palestinians (34%) than are liberal and moderate Republicans (10%). Liberal Democrats differ little from moderate and conservative Democrats when it comes to whether Biden is striking the right balance (about a quarter of each group think this), but they are twice as likely to say he is favoring the Israelis too much (16% vs. 8%, respectively).
Those with higher levels of formal education are less likely to say they are unsure. But, even among postgraduates, around half say they are not sure how Biden is handling the relationship. Those who offer an opinion are about twice as likely to say Biden is striking the right balance (25%) as to say he is favoring the Palestinians (13%) or the Israelis (12%). Patterns are similar among those with less education, though the share who say they do not know is higher across other educational levels. Younger people, too, are less likely to give a substantive answer than older Americans, though they are also more likely to say Biden is favoring the Israelis too much.
Americans have little awareness of the BDS movement
Americans have very little awareness of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel – one of the most prominent groups in the U.S. calling for boycotts of Israeli companies and sporting, cultural and academic institutions. Only 3% of Americans have heard “a lot” about BDS, and an additional 12% have heard “some,” while 31% have not heard much and 53% have heard nothing at all about the movement. Respondents who have heard at least some about the movement were asked a follow-up question about whether they support or oppose it. Overall, 5% of U.S. adults say they support BDS at least somewhat, including 2% who strongly support it. An additional 3% neither support nor oppose the movement, while 6% are opposed to it, including 5% who strongly oppose it. The vast majority of the public (84%) has not heard much, if anything, about BDS and, therefore, was not asked whether they support or oppose it.