Special Survey

Israeli Democracy Index 2021: Trust

IDI's 2021 Israeli Democracy Index shows a decline in trust in most state institutions

From left: President Herzog, Yohanan Plesner | Credit: Michal Fattal

(Jerusalem, January 6, 2022) Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, and Prof. Tamar Hermann, Director of IDI's Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, presented President Isaac Herzog with the Israeli Democracy Index for 2021 today (Thursday). The Democracy Index, an annual publication for the past nineteen years, reveals a complex picture regarding the level of public trust in key institutions and officials, confidence in the country's civil service and the overall strength of Israeli democracy.

Isaac Herzog, President of the State of Israel: "The fall in Israeli citizens' confidence in state institutions is deeply troubling. There is no substitute for Israel's democracy, and there is no substitute for its state institutions, and therefore the loss of confidence keeps me awake at night. No state can exist if its citizens do not have confidence in it and its institutions. Public confidence is the most important asset that any state system or institution has, and the prolonged decline in public confidence is a warning light for all of us. I believe that the growing tension and distrust between authorities–the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary–have brought about a decline in the public's confidence, seeing and hearing all these brawls and words of criticism–some to-the-point, some less so. And when confrontationalism replaces partnership and collaboration–the results are clear. But it bears clarifying that this is not a decree of fate. We can and must act otherwise."

Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute: "IDI's 2021 Democracy Index makes clear that despite the many challenges we face as a country, it is inspiring to see that a vast majority of Israelis believe that their country is a good place to live. At the same time, the fact that we are seeing a decline in trust in the institutions of Israeli democracy is worrying. It would be wise of our leadership to take note of this reality and make good use of the data provided in the data in the Democracy Index when planning public policy."

Prof. Tamar Herman, Director of IDI's Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research: "The 2021 Democracy Index support our previous findings that Israelis see the world through political glasses. We once again see how opinions on a wide range of issues which are not necessarily political, are closely aligned with where Israelis place themselves along the political divide, which in its turn strongly correlates with their national identity (Jewish/Arab), and where they self-identify along the religious-secular spectrum.

As power has shifted over the past year between parties who formerly sat in the opposition and now form the government, and those who were in power for the past twenty years (the Likud and ultraorthodox and radical right parties) are now in the opposition, opinions have realigned accordingly. Those who voted for the present coalition parties and who had in the past voiced deep concern about the state of Israeli democracy are significantly now optimistic about the future. While those who voted for parties who are now in the opposition and used to be quite optimistic are now more critical about the state of governance in Israel."

Main Findings

Public trust in state institutions

Among Jewish Israelis - the IDF is once again the institution with the highest level of public trust, though it too has experienced a significant decline, from 90% in 2019 to 78% in October 2021—once again the lowest figure since 2008. The President of Israel still garners the second highest level of trust compared to the other institutions and officials surveyed – 58% in October 2021 (56% in October 2020).

Trust in Israel’s Supreme Court has shown a steady downturn over the last few years – 41% said they had trust in the Supreme Court (42% in October 2020). Similarly, there has been a continuous decline in public trust in most other institutions - ranked next are the Israel Police 33.5% (41% in October 2020), and the media 25% (32% in October 2020). At the bottom of the list are the political parties with 10% and the Knesset with 21%. Trust in the Government rose slightly to 27% (25% October 2020).

Among Arab Israelis, trust in state institutions and officials for the most part is lower than trust among Jews, the level of trust in state institutions is lower than that in the Jewish population, with no institution crossing the halfway mark. Nevertheless levels of trust have risen in comparison with October 2020. Trust in the Supreme Court rose to 49% (40%), President of Israel 41% (31%), IDF 36% (32%), political parties 22% (14%), Knesset 25% (17.5%) and government 28% (14%). Trust in other institutions declined in comparison with October 2020 – police 22% (26%), media 32% (36%)

Trust in state institutions and officials 2003–2020 (very much or quite a lot, entire sample, %)

Media - 55% agree that "the media in Israel describe the situation in the country as if it is much worse than it really is." Segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camp shows that on the left only a minority thinks so (25%), about half in the center (48%) and about two-thirds on the right (65%).

The 2021 Democracy Index 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) from June 15-24 2021 & October 24-27, 2021. In October1004 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 184 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 2.9%± at a confidence level of 95%. The fieldwork was done for the June survey by the Dialogue Institute (Jews) and the Afkar Institute (Arabs) and for the October survey by the Midgam Institute. For the full data file see: Data Israel.