Israeli Voice Index

70% Believe Israel is on its way to Fifth Election

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With coalition negotiations faltering, the April Israeli Voice Index finds that 70% of Israelis think the country is on the way to a fifth election.

Lapid, Netanyahu

Yair Lapid, Benjamin Netanyahu | Flash 90

Main Findings

* This month a sharp decline was measured in optimism about the future of national security and a slight decline in optimism about the future of Israeli democracy. Yet, still, the rate of the optimists on security exceeds that of the optimists on democracy.

* Less than one-fifth of the Israeli public is satisfied with the election results.

* A majority of the public takes an interest in the talks between the party leaders on forming a government, but the rate of those interested among the Jews is higher than among the Arabs despite the Ra’am Party’s key role in the process.

* Despite the difficulties in forming a government, most of the public opposes the proposal that the head of the largest party be automatically recognized as the incoming prime minister.

* The public is perplexed and almost evenly split on the question of whether directly electing a prime minister is a better or worse way of managing the country than the existing one.

* The majority opposes Shas’s proposal for a direct election as an ad hoc solution for the political imbroglio, and only one-fourth see a chance that such elections will in fact be held.

* If a direct election for prime minister were to be held today, Netanyahu would indeed get the highest rate of voters. Lapid, however, has greatly narrowed the gap, and the rate of those who would choose him is only a little lower than the rate of those who would favor Netanyahu.

* A large majority expects the coalition negotiations to fail and sees a high chance that a fifth round of elections will soon be held. Far lower are the (similar) rates of those who think Netanyahu will succeed to form a government or that Bennett or Lapid will manage to do so.

* A large majority of the Jewish public opposes forming a government that includes the Arab parties. A similar rate opposes forming a government relying on the support or abstention of the Ra’am Party.

* Bezalel Smotrich (in the Jewish public) and Mansour Abbas (in the Arab public) win considerable esteem for standing on the principles they declared before the elections (Smotrich—against a coalition supported by Arab parties; Abbas – ready to sit in any government that promotes the Arab public’s rights).

* A majority of the public opposes continuing the unpaid-leave benefits that are being provided at present, but the public is divided on whether to stop them immediately or find an intermediate path, such as a gradual reduction or an extension of the entitlement period for older people only.

* A majority of the public thinks Israel should follow in the United States’ footsteps and recognize the genocide of the Armenian people, even if it worsens relations with Turkey.

The National Mood

This month a large decline of 15% was measured on optimism about the future of national security; unlike in the past, only about half of the interviewees view the future with hope in that regard. Although this result could stem from the renewed rocket attacks from Gaza and from the clashes between the police and Palestinians in Jerusalem, additional measurements would be needed to determine that a trend is involved and not a one-off outcome. Optimism about the future of Israeli democracy also declined, which is not a surprising finding in light of recent political developments that well indicate the glaring defects of Israel’s governmental system. Note that even after the decline in optimism about security, the rate of optimists on that issue is still clearly higher than the rate regarding Israeli democracy.

Optimistic about the future of Israeli democracy and about the future of national security, April 2019─April 2021 (%, entire sample)

The disparities in optimism on security by political camp (Jews) are relatively small: left – 46%, center – 50%, right – 57%. The low rate of optimists on the future of Israel’s democratic governance is also evident in all the camps, but here the gaps are much larger: left – 15%, center – 26%, right – 47%. This finding is interesting in light of the fact that, for the first time in a long period, there is a significant chance of forming a government based on parties of the center and the left.

Satisfaction with the Election Results

The public’s satisfaction with the election results is very low at only 18%, an almost identical rate to the measurement for March 2021, right after the election (20% satisfied).

At the same time, among the voters for certain parties a change occurred: voters for Labor, Meretz, and Blue and White reported higher satisfaction with the election results for last month than for this month, when the mandate to form a government is in Netanyahu’s hands. And whereas last month Yamina and Yesh Atid voters indicated low satisfaction with the results, today their satisfaction is higher, perhaps because of the possibility that the leaders of their parties will ultimately succeed to form a government.

Satisfied with the election results (%, entire sample, by voting in the elections)

Interest in Reports about the Talks on Forming a Government

Despite the fact that these were the fourth elections alongside the protracted process of forming a government, a majority of the public (58%) reports that they are interested in the media coverage of the negotiations between the party leaders. Despite the Ra’am Party’s key role in the process, an unprecedented phenomenon, interest among the Jews is clearly higher than among the Arabs: 60% vs. 45.5%. We found almost no disparities on the issue between the different political camps (Jews).

Interested in reports on the coalition talks (%, Jews and Arabs)

Changing the System

The head of the biggest party will be prime minister – Amid the difficulties in forming a government, proposals have again been made to change the system so that the new prime minister’s identity will emerge as rapidly as possible after the elections. We asked: “Do you support or oppose the proposal that, beginning with the next elections, the leader of the largest party will be the prime minister without needing to get the backing of the Knesset?” The rate of opponents of this change (45.5%) exceeds the rate of its supporters (38%), though a considerable portion of the interviewees had no opinion on the matter (16%).

Positions on the proposal that beginning with the next elections, the leader of the largest party will be the prime minister without needing to get the backing of the Knesset (%, entire sample)

The opposition to such a change is especially strong on the left, where a large majority does not want it (72%). In the center, too, a majority rejects such a scheme, but it is smaller than on the left (57%). On the right only a minority rejects the proposed change (36%). The differences probably reflect the self-confidence of each of the camps about the chances that the largest party will come from its ranks.

Support for the proposal that beginning with the next elections, the head of the largest party will be the prime minister without needing to get the backing of the Knesset

Party Support for the prime minister being the head of the largest party (%)
Shas 75
Likud  74
Religious Zionism 61
Torah Judaism 48
Yamina 48
Yisrael Beiteinu 32
New Hope 26
Labor 22
Ra’am 20
Joint List 18
Blue and White 16
Meretz 14
Yesh Atid 14

Among the Arabs, the opposition to automatically appointing the head of the largest party as prime minister is greater than among the Jews (52% vs. 45%).

Personal elections for prime minister – With the issue having reemerged lately, we asked: “In your opinion, would the direct election of the prime minister lead to a better or worse system of government for the country?” The public is perplexed on this question and divided almost evenly between those who think a transition to that system would not change anything, those who see it as a better system, and those who regard it as a worse system or don’t know.

In your opinion, would the direct election of the prime minister lead to a better or worse system of government for the country? (entire sample)

In the Jewish public, opposition to the system was found primarily among those who defined themselves as left-wing. Out of these, a small majority (52%) thinks it is a worse system; in the center, only a third view it that way (36%); and on the right, only a fifth (20%). These rates are very similar to those that were measured in 2001, when the law was changed and the direct election of the prime minister was abolished.

An ad hoc direct election as a solution for the imbroglio – While, indeed, we found perplexity about permanent adoption of the direct-election system, at the same time there is clear opposition to Shas’s proposal to hold direct elections for prime minister as a quick fix for the political quandary that has emerged.

Agree or disagree that Shas’s proposal of a direction election only for prime minister will put an end to the political imbroglio (%, entire sample)

On the issue of this proposal, we found large gaps between voters for the different parties. The following table shows the rates of support for it by voting in the recent elections. Indeed, a majority supports the proposal only among Shas, Likud, and Religious Zionism voters.

Agree that direct election of the prime minister will put an end to the political imbroglio:

  % agree
Shas 83
Religious Zionism  55.5
Likud 54
Torah Judaism 39
Yamina 39
Joint List 29
Ra’am 25
New Hope 20
Labor 12
Yesh Atid 12
Blue and White 11
Meretz 9.5
Yisrael Beiteinu 7

And who is the preferred candidate? We wanted to see if there is a candidate who would “win the jackpot” if direct elections for the prime minister were to be held today. The findings show that while Netanyahu is indeed the public’s preferred candidate with the highest rate, Yair Lapid is also a candidate with considerable chances. Bennett, however, would get low public support in personal elections.

If personal elections for prime minister were to be held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for?

The following table shows the preferences of voters for different parties regarding the prime minister if a personal choice were to be offered.

If direct elections for the prime minister were to be held today, whom would you vote for? (%)

  Netanyahu Lapid Bennett None of them
Shas 94 0 6 0
Likud  86 1 8.5 1
Torah Judaism 80 3 6 9
Religious Zionism 68 0 19 11
Yesh Atid 1 80 9 8
Meretz 5 67 0 21
Labor 3 53 3 34
Blue and White 2 43 20.5 25
Ra’am 21 42 0 26
Joint List 7 34 5 47
Yisrael Beiteinu 14 21 14 43
New Hope 0 17 22 41
Yamina 27 1.5 56 3

What Will Happen?

A large majority of the Israeli public (70%) thinks we are on the way to election number 5. Only a minority sees high chances that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister (34%), and an almost identical rate thinks Lapid and Bennett will head the next government (32.5%). A lower rate sees very high or moderately high chances that direct elections for the prime minister will be held (26%).

High chances that at the end of the coalition talks, each of the following scenarios will materialize (%, entire sample)

Estimation of the chances for each of the scenarios is largely connected to the party the interviewees voted for in the recent elections. A majority of those who voted for Yesh Atid think Lapid and Bennett will head the next government, and so do almost half the voters for Blue and White, Labor, and Meretz. But more than half of Shas voters, and almost half of voters for Torah Judaism, Religious Zionism, Likud, and Yamina as well, say it is Netanyahu who will head the next government.

Expecting the formation of a Netanyahu led government or a Bennett and Lapid led government by voting in the recent elections (%, high chances, entire sample)

The Arab Parties and the Efforts to Form a Government

The Arab Parties as Part of the Government?

This month we again asked the interviewees in the survey whether they support or oppose forming a government with the Arab parties. Two months ago about a third of the Jewish public (35%) supported forming a government with the Arab parties compared to only 29% today. In the Arab public’s position on this question, no change occurred since two months ago and today a majority of about three-fourths favors such a government.

A segmentation by political camps (Jews) of the degree of support for forming a government with the Arab parties reveals that, whereas on the left the support for such an initiative increased (from 77% to 83%), on the right (from 21% to 13%) and in the center (from 47% to 43%) a decline in support for it occurred.

Support for including Arab parties in the government, with the appointment of Arab ministers (%, Jews)

Especially evident is the decline in support for forming a government that includes Arab parties in the centrist and right-wing parties, which, at least on paper, are candidates to be part of the “change coalition” (Blue and White: a decline from 58% support in February to 45.5% in April; New Hope: from 41% support in February to 31% in April; Yamina: from 21% support in February to only 6% in April).

A Fifth Round of Elections or a Coalition Supported by Ra’am?

The public is divided on the question of which is preferable—another election campaign or a government relying on the support or abstention of the Ra’am Party. One-third prefer a Ra’am-supported government, a little less than a fourth prefer going to a fifth round of elections, and another almost one-third do not prefer either of those possibilities. The support for a Ra’am-supported government is slightly higher in the Arab public than in the Jewish public (39% vs. 32%, respectively).

From your standpoint, which of the following possibilities is preferable? (%, entire sample):

Among voters for Ra’am and for the centrist parties (Yesh Atid and Blue and White), half to two-thirds favor forming a government relying on the support or abstention of Ra’am. The lowest support for this measure is among voters for the right-wing parties (Religious Zionism, Yamina, and Likud).

Support for forming a government relying on the support or abstention of the Ra’am Party (%, entire sample)

Bezalel Smotrich and Mansour Abbas: Praiseworthy Men of Principle?

Two of the party leaders, Bezalel Smotrich and Mansour Abbas, have stuck throughout the negotiations to promises they gave their voters on the eve of the elections. Smotrich is sticking to his opposition to a government supported by the Arab parties; Abbas, to his readiness in principle to take part in any government that will be formed as long as it promises to help the Arab sector substantially.

We asked the interviewees, Jews (about Smotrich) and Arabs (about Abbas), whether these two leaders deserve praise for their firm, principled stance. A small majority of the Jewish public (54%) thinks Smotrich deserves praise for adhering to his election promises, and in the Arab public a little less than half (46%) think the same about Abbas. The Arab public is indeed divided between Ra’am voters (75% see his conduct as praiseworthy) and Joint List voters (27% see it that way). Interestingly, Smotrich wins appreciation for sticking to his principles not only on the right, where a majority expresses esteem for him (62%), but also, to a not inconsiderable extent, on the left (48.5%) and in the center (42%) as well.

And on two other issues:

Extend the Unpaid Leave?

Last summer it was decided that the unpaid-leave benefits for workers would continue until June 2021. Now, toward the end of that period, and with voices increasingly calling to reduce the unpaid-leave benefits for fear that they lower motivation to return to the labor market, we looked into whether the public supports or opposes extending the unpaid-leave period.

It turns out that only 17% support continuing the unpaid-leave benefits as planned, about a third favor gradually reducing the unpaid-leave benefits or extending them only for those aged 50 and over, while the highest rate (40%) opposes extending the unpaid-leave benefits.

In about another month the period of unpaid-leave benefits will end. Do you support or oppose extending the unpaid-leave period? (%, entire sample)

Opposition to extending the unpaid leave is much higher in the Jewish public than in the Arab public (42% vs. 29%); on the other hand, support for extending the unpaid leave on the existing model is much higher in the Arab public (Arabs: 33%, Jews: 14%).

It was also found that only about a third of the Jewish young people (up to age 34) oppose extending the unpaid leave and a quarter of them also support continuing the unpaid-leave model as it now is, compared to half of the older people (aged 55 and over) who oppose extending the unpaid leave and less than 7% who support continuing the current unpaid-leave model.

A close relationship was found between economic situation and support or opposition to extending the unpaid leave. Whereas a quarter of those whose monthly income is less than average support extending the current conditions for unpaid leave, only 8% of those with an above-average monthly income support doing so. Most (52%) of those with above-average incomes oppose extending the unpaid leave compared to only about a third of those with below-average incomes.

Positions on extending the unpaid leave, in a segmentation by monthly income (%, entire sample)

Recognizing the genocide of the Armenian people – Recently US President Biden announced that his country recognizes the Armenian genocide. Biden did so despite the fact that his predecessors refrained from doing so out of fear for the future of US-Turkish relations. We asked the interviewees whether Israel should follow in the United States’ footsteps and also recognize the Armenian genocide, even if it aggravates relations with Turkey. The highest rate (53%) thought Israel should take such an initiative, though an especially high rate (29%) said they did not know.

Should Israel, too, recognize the genocide of the Armenians, even if it intensifies Turkey’s hostility? (%, entire sample, Arabs, Jews, and Jews by political camp)

The Israeli Voice Index for April 2021 was prepared by the Viterbi 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) from April 26 to April 28, 2021, 612 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 150 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 3.59%± at a confidence level of 95%. The fieldwork was done by the Smith Institute. For the full data file see Data Israel.