Will Your Vote Count?

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To what degree does the Israeli public have faith in the integrity of the elections, to what extent does it believe that the April 9th elections will accurately reflect its views and how does Israel measure against other democracies?

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In the 2019 elections, concerns are focused on the possibility of foreign meddling in the Israeli elections.  In this environment, it is important to assess the degree to which the public has faith in the integrity of elections, and the extent to which it believes that the April elections will accurately reflect its views.

Why is this important?

Elections are the foundation on which democracies are built, so it is vital that citizens have trust in the integrity of the system. If citizens do not believe that the election accurately represents the public, they may be less concerned about threats to the democratic regime. Accordingly, countries with more positive perceptions of electoral integrity have greater satisfaction with democracy.Norris, Pippa. 2018. "Do Public Perceptions of Electoral Malpractice Undermine Democratic Satisfaction? The U.S. in Comparative Perspective." Harvard Faculty Research Working Paper Series.

In no country does the public have complete trust in the election process. One reason for this seems to be the "loser effect", which describes a decline in trust among people when the election results do not reflect their own personal vote. For example, after the 2004 election (won by Republican George W. Bush) about 80% of Republicans said the vote fairly calculated, which fell to about 52% following the 2012 election (won by Democrat Barack Obama). This rebounded back to 71% after Donald Trump won in 2016. In multiple countries including Mexico, Australia, and much of Europe, researchers have often found similar patterns.

So where does the Israeli public stand in advance of the 2019 election?

2019 Pre-Election Survey

In the February 2019 Israel Democracy Institute Pre-Election Survey, we asked a representative sample of 600 Israeli adults whether they have trust in the integrity of Knesset elections, and whether they believe that the  results will accurately reflect the public's vote.

Overall, 65% of Israelis said they have “full” or “quite a lot” of trust in the integrity of the election. However, only 26% had full trust in the integrity of the election. On the other hand, 27% of Israelis have little or no trust in the integrity of the election. A higher percentage of Jews than Arabs said they trusted the elections, with almost 70% of Jewish Israelis saying they trust the integrity of the election, compared to 44% of Arab Israelis.

(%) Trust in integrity of the election

In this survey we found very small differences between Jews on the Left and Right in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister since 2009, and the Right has won large majorities in the last 3 elections. Nevertheless, only a slightly higher majority of Jews on the Left trusts the integrity of the election—74% as compared to 71% of the Right. Jews in the Center have the lowest rate of trust, nevertheless 68% still say they trust the integrity of the elections.

Trust in integrity of the election, by political bloc (Jews, %)

We see no evidence of the “loser effect” when looking at voters’ choices in the 2015 election. For example, among the small number of respondents who said they voted for small parties that did not manage to pass the threshold, there is still a high level of trust in the integrity of the vote count. Among these voters 72% said they have full or quite a lot of trust. Voters who said they did not vote in 2015 even though they had the right to do so have less  faith in the system, but a majority (57%) still say they believe the count will accurately represent the views of the public,  compared to 27% who have little or no faith.

There is a high correlation between views on the future of Israel and views on the integrity of the electoral system. Those who are pessimistic about the future of the State are less likely to trust the electoral system; 77% of those who are optimistic about the future report that they trust the integrity of the election, as compared to 49% among those who are pessimistic. Please note that we cannot determine if there is a causal relationship between the two viewpoints.

Trust in integrity of the election, by views about the future (%)

Where does Israel stand in comparison with other countries?

Surveys conducted around the world have posed the question of trust in the integrity and honesty of elections. Compared to these measures, Israel appears similar to many Western democracies.

Between 2004 and 2018 Gallup polls asked Americans if they were confident that votes cast in an upcoming election would be accurately counted. The number of those answering in the affirmative has fluctuated between 59% and 70% during this period, very similar to the 65% of Israelis who answered in the affirmative in the current survey.

On a different question, Gallup has asked people around the world if their elections are conducted honestly. Responses to this question show a large range, from just 14% of Brazilians ahead of their 2018 Presidential election, to nearly 70% in Canada and Ireland in a 2016 survey.

The Israeli public’s response to this question match answers from experts. On a survey of local and international expertsRoughly forty social scientists with demonstrated knowledge of domestic or international electoral processes were interviewed in each country. conducted by the Electoral Integrity Project, Israel scored an average of 74 out of 100.Average scores from surveys conducted in multiple years between 2012 and 2017. Report available at: Out of 164 countries, this placed Israel 20th, tied with Poland and Portugal, and just one point behind the average of 75 for Northern and Western Europe.

While there are serious threats to the future integrity of the election process, heading into the April election, overall-- Israelis are confident their vote will be counted accurately, at levels which are similar to those in other developed democracies.