Israel’s Unique Challenges Require a Strong Leader
53% of Israelis agree or strongly agree that dealing with Israel’s special problems requires a strong leader who will not worry about the Knesset, the media or public opinion.
* The gap between the degree of optimism about the future of Israel’s national security and about the future of its democratic governance continues to widen, and this month it reached a peak of 28% with the majority optimistic about security and only a decreasing minority optimistic about the future of democratic governance in Israel.
* The public gives the government very low grades on strengthening the people’s trust in their leaders and bringing societal groups closer together. It also gives it low grades on dealing with the national economy and with the COVID-19 crisis, and higher grades for managing national security and foreign policy. At the same time, only on the latter issue, managing foreign policy, is there a majority that gives the government a grade of good or excellent.
* A large majority of the Jewish public says they will vote in the upcoming elections. Among the Arabs a minority says so. And among young people, the rate of those who are not sure whether they will vote in the upcoming elections is much higher than among older people.
* A majority of the public rejects the statement that it is not important whom you vote for because the situation remains the same. We found a significant relationship between the answer to this question and the intention to vote: among those who reject this claim, the rate of those who intend to vote is higher than among those who accept it.
* The public is divided on the question of whether or not they will again vote for the same party they voted for in March 2020. The rate of party loyalty is highest among the Haredi parties and lowest among Blue and White voters.
* For the public as a whole, the most important concern in deciding which party to vote for is its positions on economic issues. On the left the most important concern is a party’s positions on social issues; in the center, its positions on social issues; and on the right, its positions on security issues.
* Today in Israel there is a majority, though not large, that thinks Israel currently needs a strong leader who does not worry about public opinion, the media, or the Knesset. On the left only a minority takes this position, but in the center and on the right it has the support of the majority.
* The public as a whole continues to perceive Netanyahu as best suited to fulfill the role of prime minister. In second place, and far behind, is Gideon Saar. A very high rate of the interviewees, however, answered that no one among the list of candidates we presented to them is suited to the role.
* Only a small minority thinks Netanyahu’s trial will open as planned in February.
The National Mood
The degree of optimism about the future of democratic governance in December is 5% lower than the average for 2020; conversely, the degree of optimism about the future of national security in December is 4% higher than the average for 2020. This is the largest gap between the two questions since we began to ask it in spring 2019.
Optimistic about the future of Israeli democracy and about the future of its national security, April 2019─December 2020 (%, entire sample)
An interesting finding in this context is that whereas the rate of optimism among Jews and Arabs about the future of Israel’s democratic governance is similar and low (Jews 36%, Arabs 33%), on the question of national security the disparity between the two groups is very large (Jews 70%, Arabs 31%).
A further interesting finding is that a segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camps (self-affiliation) reveals that in none of the three camps is there a majority of optimists about the future of democratic governance in Israel, though on the right their rate is a good deal higher than in the center and on the left (left 12%, center 23%, right 47%).
Grades for the Government on Its Performance in 2020
We asked the interviewees to give the government grades for its performance in 2020 in six areas: running foreign policy, running national-security policy, managing the COVID-19 crisis, strengthening the national economy, strengthening trust between the people and their leaders, and bringing different societal groups closer together. The highest grade was obtained for running foreign policy; 57% gave the government a grade of good or excellent here. Second place regarding the grade given the government was taken by the running of security policy; here 48% gave the government a grade of good or excellent. From there the drop is steepest: only 24% gave the government a grade of good or excellent on managing the COVID-19 crisis, 21% on managing the national economy, and only 12% on strengthening the people’s trust in their leaders and on bringing groups in the Israeli population closer to each other.
A grade of good or excellent for the government’s performance (%, entire sample)
Among the Arab public, as also on the left and in the center (Jews), in none of the six areas did the government get a positive grade from a majority of the respondents. The positive grade that the government receives from the entire sample on running Israel’s foreign policy and security policy stems from the high grades that right-wingers give it in those two areas (74% and 62%, respectively).
A short time before Israel goes into another election campaign, especially notable is the low grade the government received on strengthening the public’s trust in their leaders. Here half of the Jewish interviewees and over a third of the Arab interviewees gave the government the lowest possible grade (1). Not surprisingly, this low grade is especially prevalent among the Jewish interviewees who located themselves on the left (81%) and in the center (73%).
Rates of those who gave the government poor grades on strengthening the people’s trust in their leaders (%, Jews and Arabs, and Jews by political camp)
This low assessment of the government’s performance in the area of strengthening trust between the people and their leaders is likely to influence both the intention to vote in the upcoming elections and the choice of which party to vote for. Among those who gave the government a low grade on the issue of strengthening trust, only 62% are sure they will go and vote in the upcoming elections, compared to 78% of those who gave the government a grade of good or excellent on this issue. And as for intentions about whom to vote for, only a small minority (15%) of those who gave the government a grade of poor on strengthening trust between the people and their leaders are sure they will vote for the same party as in the previous elections, compared to 72% of those who see the government’s performance as excellent in this regard.
Exactly two years ago, in December 2018, we also asked the interviewees to assign grades to the outgoing government’s performance. When comparing the distribution of responses then and today, it turns out that in 2018 the assessment of the government’s performance was much more positive in all the areas considered.
The Upcoming Elections
Intention to Vote in the Elections
Out of the entire sample about two-thirds (64%) said they were sure they would vote in the upcoming elections while 17% said they thought they would vote (a total of 81%). The gap here between the Jewish and Arab interviewees is very large: 69% of the Jews said they were sure they would vote compared to only 39% of the Arabs.
There is also a large disparity in voting intentions by age: the young people, among both the Jews and the Arabs, are much less sure they will vote.
Assuming that Knesset elections will be held soon, are sure they will go to vote (%, Jews and Arabs, by age)
“It Doesn’t Matter Who You Vote for, It Doesn’t Change the Situation”
Only a minority of the interviewees (34.5%) agreed with the statement that “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, it doesn’t change the situation.” Indeed, the rate of those agreeing with that statement in the current measurement is lower than the average agreement with it over the past decade (42%). In other words, the public does not hold the opinion that governmental officials are “all the same.”
“It doesn’t matter who you vote for, it doesn’t change the situation” (%, entire public)
We found the greatest agreement with this statement in the center camp (Jews), where 43% agreed with it compared to 37% on the left and 29.5% on the right.
Age plays a very interesting role on this question: despite the tendency to think young people are more repelled than older people by politicians and political goings-on, in fact we found that in the youngest age group (18-24) the rate of those agreeing with the statement that it doesn’t matter whom you vote for is the lowest (25%), while among the oldest group, those 65 and older, 41% agreed with it.
The degree of agreement with that claim is related to the intention to vote in the upcoming elections. Among those who agree that it is not important whom one votes for, the intention to go and vote is lower; and conversely, among those who disagree with it, the rate of those who intend to vote is high.
Think or are sure they will go and vote in the upcoming elections (%, entire sample, by degree of agreement with the statement that it is not important whom one votes for because it will not change the situation).
Voting Again for the Same Party
What are the chances that someone who will vote in the upcoming elections, vote for the same party he voted for in the previous elections in March 2020? It turns out the public is divided on this question, with only a slight advantage for those who think or are sure they will vote for the same party as in the previous elections.
And if you vote, what are the chances you will vote for the party you voted for in the previous elections in March 2020? (%, entire sample)
A segmentation of the responses to this question by parties gives the following picture: Blue and White has lost most of its voters and Labor-Gesher-Meretz a little more than half of them. However, all the rest of the parties retain the majority of their voters, with the Haredi parties retaining almost all of their past voters. It should be noted that the survey was conducted after Saar announced his resignation from Likud and the establishment of his new party. In other words, at least at this stage, the party is not sweeping away most of the Likud or Yamina voters, and apparently is making gains largely from former Blue and White voters.
Think or are sure they will vote in the upcoming elections for the same party they voted for in March 2020 (%, by voting)
A segmentation of the responses to the question on voting for the same party by political camp (Jewish sample) shows that, on the left and in the center, only a minority will vote for the same party (29% and 27% respectively), while on the right a majority – though not large – will stay where they are (58%).
The Key Issue for Which Party to Vote For
And in this context we also asked: “Among the following issues, which is the most important to you when deciding which party to vote for?” We found that, for the public as a whole, the party’s positions on economic issues are currently the most important factor in deciding whether or not to vote for it.
In the Western world the environmental-quality issue has been gaining political momentum in recent decades. In Israel only 1.5% said it was the most important factor in deciding which party to vote for
Which issue is most important to you when deciding which party to vote for? (%, entire sample)
A segmentation of the responses to this question by political camp shows that in first place for those defining themselves as left-wing are the party’s positions on social issues (55%). In the center the main factor is its positions on economic issues (44%), while on the right the top consideration for which party to vote for is its positions on security issues (33%). In the Arab public the party’s positions on social issues (32%) are in first place, and after them the high rate of those who said they didn’t know (24%).
A segmentation by age reveals that the central issue for young people (18-24) in deciding whom to vote for is the party’s positions on military and security issues (34%), among those aged 25-54 its positions on economic issues (33%), and among older people (55 and over) its positions on social issues (37%).
Will Someone Win?
We went on to ask: “What, in your opinion, are the chances that in the upcoming elections the right-wing camp or the center-left camp will come out clearly on top?” Only a quarter of the interviewees responded that there are very high or moderately high chances that such a victory will result. The majority thinks that this time as well there will be no clear winner.
The chances that in the upcoming elections the right-wing camp or the center-left camp will come out clearly on top (%, entire sample)
Voters for Likud (37%) and Shas (36%) had the highest rate of those who believe there will be a decisive outcome between the right and the center-left, while among voters for Yisrael Beiteinu, the Joint List, and Labor-Gesher-Meretz the rate who think so is the lowest (19%-21%).
A Strong Leader
In this survey we repeated a question we have asked many times in the past concerning the degree of agreement or disagreement with the statement: “Dealing with Israel’s special problems requires a strong leader who will not worry about the Knesset, the media, or public opinion.” Over half of the interviewees, 53%, strongly or moderately agreed with this undemocratic statement. The degree of agreement among the Jews is higher than among the Arabs (54% and 47% respectively).
The disparity between the three political camps’ responses to this question is very large; on the left only a minority agrees with it compared to a small majority in the center and a larger majority on the right:
Dealing with Israel’s special problems requires a strong leader who will not worry about the Knesset, the media, or public opinion (%, agree, Jews by political camp)
The parties with the highest support for a strong leader are Likud (69%), Torah Judaism (69%), and Yamina (67%).
Suitability as Prime Minister
At the time of writing, Netanyahu is leading the list of individuals who are considered to be prime ministerial candidates. In second place is Gideon Saar. Especially interesting is the very high rate of those who say that none of the above individuals are suitable (22%). Among the Arab interviewees this rate comes to 38% and the leading individual is Lapid (11%).
In your opinion, who among the following individuals is best suited to be the next Israeli prime minister? (%, entire sample)
A segmentation by political camps (Jewish sample) reveals that on the left Lapid is in the lead (23%), though the highest rate answered “None of them” (33%). In the center the leader is Saar (36%), and just the same rate responded “None of them.” On the right Netanyahu has a very solid foothold with 48% saying he is best suited (only 12% answered “None of them”).
|Right (Jews)||Center (Jews)||Left (Jews)||Arabs|
A majority of the public as a whole (57%) sees the chances as moderately or very low that the Netanyahu trial will resume in February as scheduled. Only a quarter see the chances of this as moderately or very high. A fascinating finding is that on this assessment there is no difference between the three political camps (Jewish sample): on the left only 28.5% think the chances are that the trial will open as planned in February; in the center, 25%; and on the right, 28%. The difference in assessments here between Jews and Arabs is also small – Jews 27%, Arabs 22%.
In your assessment, what are the chances that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trial will begin as planned at the beginning of February? (%, entire sample)
The Israeli Voice Index for December 2020 was prepared by the Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. In the survey, which was conducted on the internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) on December 29-30, 2020, 612 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 151 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population of Israel aged 18 and older. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was 3.7%± at a confidence level of 95%. The fieldwork was done by the Midgam Institute. For the full data file see: Data Israel.