Did the September Election Solve Anything?

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Shortly after the second election of 2019, the Guttman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute published the September Israeli Voice Index, which asked Israelis a number of questions to gauge their reactions to the election results. The failure to form a government in April and the fact that the country was propelled into an additional election was a big surprise, along with the fact that -we may once again need to go to the polls for a third election in early 2020. What do Israelis think about all this?

Israel Elections

Illustration | Flash 90

Overall Satisfaction

Overall, a majority of Israelis –57%---are dissatisfied with the election results, as compared with only 35% who reported being satisfied. Overall, this is not significantly different from April, when 43% were satisfied and 54% were not satisfied with the results. However, there were big changes in which Israelis were satisfied with the results, and which Israelis were not satisfied.

Among Jews, there was a complete reversal of opinion between April and September. Immediately following the April election, 70% of Jews on the Right said they were satisfied with the election results, compared to just 7% of Jews on the Left. After September, satisfaction on the Right dropped to just 19%, while satisfaction rose dramatically to 71% on the Left. There was also a significant increase in satisfaction among Jews in the Center, from 18% in April to 47% after September. 

Satisfied with Election Results (%, Arabs and Jews by political bloc)

Satisfaction among Jews

This significant switch in satisfaction between the Left and Right among Jews reflects the very different results of the two elections. Immediately following the April elections, it looked like Prime Minister Netanyahu would easily form a government, which was not the case after September. This switch can also be seen in satisfaction among the supporters of specific political parties.

Among Blue and White supporters, 62% were satisfied with the September results compared to just 3% in April. Among those who voted Likud in April, 95% were satisfied immediately following that election, dropping to 13% in September. 

Satisfaction with election results (%, Jews by party)

Satisfaction among Arab Israelis 

A number of parties merged and split between the April and September elections. One of the more important developments was that the four main political parties representing Arab Israelis recombined into a Joint List after running as two separate lists in April. Arab turnout at the polls rose significantly, from 49% in April to 59% in September []. The Arab parties went from 10 seats combined to 13 for the Joint List. In this context, it is easy to understand why there was a significant increase in the percentage of Arab Israelis who were very or moderately satisfied with the election results—from 30% in April to 57% in September.

In this survey, 25% of Arab respondents said that they voted for one of the majority Jewish parties such as the Democratic Union or Likud, while 49% said they voted for the Joint List, and 26% did not vote or would not say whom they voted for. There is little difference between these two groups, with 76% of Arab Israelis who supported the Joint List saying that they were satisfied with the results of the election, compared to 71% of those who supported a majority Jewish party. 

Arab Parties inside the Government?

For the first time since the early 1990's, an Arab party recommended someone for the position of Prime Minister to the President, bringing the question of Arab participation in government back into the public debate. In the September survey, a significant majority of Jewish Israelis opposed adding Arab parties to the government including the appointment of Arab ministers (18% support and 74% opposed). On the other hand a majority of Arab Israelis do support Arab parties participating in the government (66% support and 14% opposed).

Opposition to Arab parties joining the government is highest among Jews who identify themselves as belonging to the Right, with 89% opposing, and only 5% --supporting the idea in this September survey. On the other hand, the opinions among Jews who identify with the Left are the reverse-- with 71% supporting the idea and only 26% opposed.

Support for Arab parties in government including Ministers (%, Jews by political bloc)

After the September election, 10 of the 13 members of the Joint List recommended to the President that Benny Gantz be given the opportunity for a first crack at forming a government. However, they made it clear that they were not yet willing to join a government without being given promises with regard to specific policies. In this survey, all respondents who reported that they voted for the Joint List in September, support Arab parties joining a government at some point in the future. Similarly voters for the Democratic Union were largely supportive of the idea. However, only 41% of Labor-Gesher voters and 32% of Blue and White voters support the idea.

Another Election in the Wings?

In the April election, the Right bloc received 65 seats, and Prime Minister Netanyahu was expected to form a government very similar to the one in place since the 2015 election. However, Avigdor Lieberman refused to join the government, and the Knesset voted to go to early elections, rather than of giving someone else the opportunity to try and form a government. Today, after the September elections, the blocs are at even more of an impasse, with no candidate receiving the recommendations of 61 Knesset members. This situation has generated a great deal of talk both about a unity government and the possibility of a third election in early 2020.

Overall, Israelis are strongly opposed to a third election. Among Jews, 64% support the establishment of a unity government, and just 15% are in favor of a third election. A plurality of Arab Israelis also supports a unity government, but opinion on the various options is much more split among them.

Preferred solution after second election (%)

Although a majority of Israelis support a unity government, support varies significantly by party. A unity government was a key element of Lieberman's election campaign, and not surprisingly-- 78% of Yisrael Beitenu voters in this September poll support the idea. Similarly, 81% of Blue and White voters also support the idea, which makes sense, given that they would be a key player in such a deal. It is expected that such a government would exclude the ultra-Orthodox parties, and their voters likely oppose the idea on those grounds. Among those who voted Shas, just 23% support a unity government, as do 30% of United Torah Judaism voters. Perhaps the most interesting result relates to Likud voters, among whom just 59% support a unity government, while 27% support a third election---, the highest percentage among any party except for Otzma, which did not pass the election threshold and will not be in the 22nd Knesset.

Preferred outcome by party (%)


The most important conclusion from these results is that even those voters who were unhappy with the results are unwilling to go to a third election, and would prefer a unity government or another solution. Among the majority of Israelis who were not satisfied with the election results, only 19% support another election as a means of solving the political impasse. While it is not clear whether a government will be formed and third elections can be avoided, public opinion on this issue is unambiguous.

For the full data files see Data Israel.