Debating the Draft – Public Opinion Survey

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Recent weeks have seen the continued debate on exemption of yeshiva students from the draft. In June 2018, the Israel Democracy Institute posed a representative sample of Israelis a series of questions on the subject, and found that 70% of the public is in favor of drafting ultra-Orthodox youth, and that a large plurality of 45% support a solution whereby a small number of students would continue their studies in yeshivot, a while all others would be drafted at age 18.

Should young ultra-Orthodox / yeshiva students serve in the IDF?

Are changes in the national security situation reflected in changes in public opinion on the draft of the ultra-Orthodox? We can find answers to these and similar questions on Data Israel.

Majority support for drafting young ultra-Orthodox into the army goes as far back as 1991. There have been small fluctuations, but consistently --at least 2/3 (65%) of the Israeli public has supported drafting yeshiva students or young ultra-Orthodox into the IDF.

Survey Year Definitely in favor Somewhat in favor Somewhat Against Definitely Against Don't Know
IDI Peace Index* Jun-18 38% 25% 12% 14% 11%
IDI Peace Index* Oct-17 41% 25% 13% 17% 4%
Religious Behavior in Israel, Avi Chai** 2009 53% 31% 9% 6% 1%
Questionnaire on Attitudes and Values ​​of Youth*** 1994 41% 47% 9% 3% --
The Current Survey on the Public's Problems^ 1993 82% -- 9%^^ 8% 1%
Religious and Jewish behavior in Israel Part A*** 1991 55% 35% 5% 4% 1%

*Do you support or not support compulsory conscription into the IDF for young haredim?
** Yeshiva students should be drafted into the IDF
*** Are you for or against drafting yeshiva students into the army?
^ Are you pro drafting yeshiva students into the army (or into national service)?
^^ Not into the army, but into civilian guard

Using Data Israel's crosstab feature, we can look at responses to this question grouped by responses to other questions, allowing us to look at how opinions have changed over time among groups such as secular and ultra-Orthodox respondents.

In the June 2018 Peace Index, 87% of the ultra-Orthodox opposed drafting young ultra-Orthodox men, compared to 55% supporting the draft among national religious, 79% of traditional and 81% of secular respondents. The results in October 2017 were very similar. Going back to 1991, only 65% of the ultra-Orthodox were opposed to drafting yeshiva students, and 34% supported the idea. In comparison 82% of the national religious respondents, 94% of traditional respondents, and 95% of secular respondents supported drafting yeshiva students.

What about support for a conscription army?

Setting aside the question of whether specific groups should be exempt from the draft, a bigger question is whether the draft should be maintained at all? The June 2018 Peace Index questionnaire included a question on whether the IDF should continue to rely on compulsory conscription or become a volunteer army, with those who choose to serve being compensated for making the army their professional life choice.

That survey found mixed support, with 26% strongly in favor of maintaining compulsory service, and 20% strongly in favor of moving to a volunteer, professional army.
Prior surveys available on Data Israel show a dramatic change in recent years, with strong majority support for keeping the draft from 1998 to 2015. In the 2017 and 2018 surveys, findings were less conclusive.

Survey Year Certain should keep the draft Think should keep the draft Think should be volunteer Certain should be volunteer Don't Know
IDI Peace Index June 2018* 26% 18% 19% 20% 18%
IDI Peace Index Oct 2017* 28% 25% 20% 22% 5%
IDI Peace Index July 2015** 74% -- -- 20% 6%
IDI Peace Index Oct 2013** 75% -- -- 21% 4%
IDI Peace Index April 2001** 53% -- -- 32% 16%
INSS 2001^ 63% 25% 8% 3% --
INSS 2000^ 51% 26% 16% 7% --
INSS 1999^ 56% 30% 10% 3% --
INSS 1998^ 65% 27% 6% 3% --

* What is your opinion on the proposal, raised repeatedly in recent years, to put an end to compulsory conscription and turn the IDF into a professional army, with those who serve in it regarding the service as their professional life-choice and being compensated accordingly?
** Which do you support more, canceling compulsory IDF service and making it an army of professionals who are interested in career service with appropriate compensation, or continuing compulsory service for all of the IDF?
^ Do you think today that the IDF should be a volunteer army or should the IDF be based on conscription?"

What has changed? Why has support for the draft dropped so significantly in recent years? We can't say for certain, but in the June 2018 IDI survey, 78% of the ultra-Orthodox supported the proposal for a volunteer army, compared to only 33% of secular, 40% of traditional, and 30% of national religious respondents. In the 1998 INSS survey, just 44% of the ultra-Orthodox supported moving to a model of a volunteer army, compared to 8% of national --religious, 5% of traditional, and 8% of secular respondents. The survey also indicated that, more than 65% of national-- religious, traditional, and secular respondents said that Israel should definitely maintain the compulsory service model. In June 2018, the strongest opposition to a volunteer army came from secular respondents, with just 34% holding that position, a significant change from 1998.

You too can use Data Israel to explore the history of public opinion in Israel easily and quickly. Using Data Israel you can search for specific surveys, by question, or by response. After locating the questions you are interested, in you can look at the entire survey questionnaire, look at simple frequencies, and even conduct crosstab analysis on specific questions.

Data Israel contains surveys from the start of the State to this month, with hundreds of surveys and thousands of questions easily accessible. If you are looking for more in--depth survey analysis you can download the raw survey responses and easily conduct your own analyses.