Press Release

ADL Survey of American Public Finds Strong Support for Israel, But Uncertainty Over Approach to Iran

New York, NY, November 5, 2013 … In a new survey of the American public on issues surrounding Israel, the Middle East peace process and Iran, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found continuing strong public support for Israel but a country uncertain about the best way to proceed regarding Iran’s effort to develop a nuclear bomb.

Regarding attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, three times as many Americans – 48-16 – expressed sympathy for Israel than the Palestinians.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of those polled said that Israel can be counted on as a strong U.S. ally, the highest figure in recent years, while 64 percent said they believe that Israel is serious in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.  A similar poll conducted in 2009 found that 67 percent of Americans believed then that Israel was a strong ally.

The 2013 Survey of American Attitudes on Israel, The Palestinians and the Middle East, a national telephone survey of 1,200 American adults, was conducted October 12-22, 2013 by Marttila Strategies of Washington, D.C. and Boston.  The margin of error is +/-2.8 percent.

“This latest survey of the American people shows that Americans continue to see Israel as America’s closest ally in the Middle East and a willing partner for peace with the Palestinians,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “American public sympathy for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians is at an all-time high.”

Together with strong support for Israel came as ambivalence about U.S. involvement in the region.

A significant majority of Americans – 62 percent -- said that peace between Israelis and Palestinians should be achieved by them with minimal U.S. involvement.  Only 29% said it could not happen without U.S. leadership. 

A slim plurality – 50-41 – supports U.S. military action, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and another plurality, 46-42, believes sanctions against Iran should remain until they give up their weapons program.

As to what position the U.S. should take if Israel attacked Iran to stop its nuclear program, 40 percent said the U.S. should support Israel, 48 percent said the U.S. should be neutral, and 9 percent said the U.S. should oppose it.

At the same time, there was little trust of Iran among the American people.  Eighty-one percent (81%) said they could not trust Iran when it says it will not develop nuclear weapons; and 74 percent said that they did not believe Iran will abide by its public commitment not to develop nuclear weapons.

“What we see here are two trends.  On the one hand, Israel is in as good a position with the American public as it ever has been,” said Mr. Foxman. “On the other hand, there are signs here as elsewhere that the American people want less U.S. involvement in the Middle East region, a position which has little to do with negative feelings toward Israel but that can have negative consequences for the Jewish state.”

Key Findings on Egypt and Syria

  • Not surprisingly, considering general opposition to foreign aid, the American public supports reducing U.S. aid to Egypt. The poll found that 67 percent of Americans would support a U.S. decision to reduce military aid to Egypt.  Another 27 percent said they believed the U.S. should not reduce military aid
  • When asked who would do a better job in providing leadership for Egypt – the military or the Muslim Brotherhood -- 64 percent of Americans responded that “neither” would provide positive good leadership.  Only 7 percent responded in favor of Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and 17 percent for the military.
  • On Syria, the American public opposes by a margin of 53-40 military action against Syria, even if President Bashar al-Assad fails to destroy his chemical weapons. 
  • By strong majority – 64-26 – the American people are opposed trying to work to remove President Assad from power.
  • Both findings on Syria are a further indication of public reluctance for the U.S. to get involved in the Middle East.


Marttila Strategies, a Washington, DC/Boston-based public opinion research firm, which has conducted ADL’s previous surveys, conducted this national telephone survey of 1,754 adults.  The base sample is 1,200 with an oversample of 143 African-Americans and 127 Hispanics, bringing the oversample for both communities to 300 each.

For those questions answered by all 1,200 respondents, the survey results have a margin of error of +/-2.8 percent.