JPPI Israeli Society Index

JPPI Israeli Society Index

JPPI’s Israeli Society Index is based on a monthly survey of a representative sample of Israelis — Jews and non-jews — who are asked about their positions on a variety of issues on the Israeli agenda.

JPPI Israeli Society Index

The Jewish People Policy Institute’s monthly Israeli Society Index shows that the Israeli public would clearly prioritize toppling Hamas over returning the hostages, should Israel be faced with so stark a choice

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Key Finding:

The Jewish People Policy Institute’s monthly Israeli Society Index shows that the Israeli public would clearly prioritize toppling Hamas over returning the hostages, should Israel be faced with so stark a choice. At the same time, there has been a further decline in public confidence that Israel will win the war. Trust in the political leadership remains low, while trust in the IDF command echelon, which is still significantly higher than trust in the political leadership, showed further erosion this month. Less than a third of the Israeli public wants to wait until the scheduled next elections (2026). Slightly over a third want the elections to be held within the next three months.

Additional Findings:

  • If the choice were between ousting Hamas and returning the hostages, 47% of Israeli Jews would choose to oust Hamas, 25% to return the hostages.
  • Confidence that Israel will win the war has fallen since October by 20%; only slightly more than half of Jewish respondents are currently confident of victory.
  • The share of Jews who place high trust in the government (very or somewhat high) dropped from 38% to 34% over the last month. Among Israeli Arabs, only 16% place high trust in the government.
  • Most coalition supporters (66%) want elections “at their scheduled time (in 2026),” while more than half of opposition voters want elections to occur within the next three months (55%).
  • A very significant rise in the share of Arab Israelis who feel that many or most Jewish Israelis are “politically extremist” (62%).
  • A third of Israelis are “very worried” about the social situation (36%), while nearly half (45%) of the Israeli public is “somewhat worried” about the social situation.
  • Israeli Jews express very positive sentiments about IDF soldiers, the Druze sector, and Diaspora Jews, but highly negative sentiments regarding Muslim Arabs in Israel.
  • Among secular Jews, the dominant sentiment regarding the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim), settlers, and religious Jews (Datiim) is “anger.” Ten percent express “hatred” toward Haredim and settlers.
  • A major subset of traditionalist (Masorti), Religious (Dati), and Haredi Jews (about a quarter of the respondents) express feelings of “anger” and “hatred” toward “Tel Avivim” (the primarily secular and liberal residents of Tel Aviv).

Returning the Hostages

Among the war goals defined by the Israeli government, two could at least theoretically be in competition or conflict with each other: removing Hamas from power, and bringing the Israeli hostages home. There is heated debate in Israel over which of the two goals takes precedence; the debate itself includes many tactical aspects about which decision makers do not necessarily agree (e.g., whether additional military pressure would increase or decrease the chances of returning the hostages, whether there would be a realistic chance of renewing the fighting after a lengthy pause for the sake of a hostage deal, and more). The JPPI survey shows that in the case of a clear conflict between the two goals, the Israeli public, and especially the Jewish public, would clearly prioritize the removal of Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip to securing the return of the hostages. This, of course, is a conclusion with myriad practical and emotional implications, but it is quite evident what Israelis would decide if faced with the hypothetical choice (a choice that one might argue is not the one that Israel is actually facing).

The question posed was: “Let’s assume Israel’s leaders reach the conclusion that only the two following options are available to them, which do you think they should choose?” The two options were: “The hostages are returned, and Hamas remains in control of Gaza,” and “The hostages are not returned, and Hamas loses control of Gaza.” There was also a third option: “Can’t answer,” which a sizeable percentage (28%) of respondents selected, whether due to the difficulty of choosing, or to the difficulty of expressing a choice with so strong an emotional dimension.

Of all respondents, 40% chose removing Hamas over returning the hostages, with Jewish respondents having the largest share selecting that option (47% – nearly double the percentage of those who prioritized return of the hostages). Among Israeli Arabs, by contrast, the return of the hostages was the predominant choice (61%).

When the results are broken down according to political affiliation, coalition supporters (65%) are much more likely than opposition supporters (31%) to prefer ousting Hamas. When the results are broken down by religiosity level, only the secular are evenly divided between preferring the return of the hostages and preferring the ouster of Hamas. The strongest preference by far among Masortim (traditionalist), Datiim (religious), and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews is the ouster of Hamas (among Datiim, 65% prefer ousting Hamas compared with 7% who prefer the returning the hostages, and when the calculation includes only those with an expressed opinion, 90% prefer toppling Hamas, versus 10% who prefer returning the hostages).

As noted, on this question, which poses a very difficult binary choice, a substantial percentage of respondents said that they “can’t answer.” In our estimation, most respondents in the latter category prefer ousting Hamas but did not want to say so due to the emotional implications. To substantiate this conclusion, we can review, for instance, the responses of Religious Zionist Party voters to this question. Two-thirds of these voters chose ousting Hamas, while a third chose “can’t answer.” None chose the return of the hostages. Thus, it is clear that the prevailing tendency among Religious Zionist Party voters is to prioritize the goal of toppling Hamas, and it is not unreasonable to assume that that tendency is shared by all of the party’s voters – with a (larger) subset of them actually willing to say so explicitly, and another subset that prefers not to.

Public Confidence that Israel Will Win the War

Israeli public confidence that Israel will win the war has gradually declined from its level at the start of the war. This was discernible in last month’s Index (January), and the drop in confidence has continued. In fact, the share of Israeli Jews with a high level of confidence that Israel will win the war (confidence ratings of 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5) is only slightly more than half, a decline of twenty percentage points since the start of the war in October 2023. Among Israeli Arabs, the share who assume that Israel will achieve victory is substantially lower. About a quarter (28%) rated their confidence of Israeli victory as high, and 44% rated it as low (1 or 2 out of five).

Confidence that Israel will win the war is influenced significantly according to political camp. If we treat all who rated their confidence level at 4 or 5 as a single unit, we see that 68% of coalition supporters expressed high confidence in victory, versus 51% of opposition supporters. Among those confident of winning the war, coalition supporters have a substantially larger share of those rating their confidence at the highest level (5 – 42%); among opposition supporters there are equal levels rating their confidence at 4 (26%) and 5 (25%). Nearly a fifth of opposition supporters (18%) rated their confidence in Israeli victory at the lowest level (1), compared with less than a tenth (8%) of coalition supporters.

The sector most skeptical of the likelihood of Israeli victory is the ultra-Orthodox – 45% rated their confidence of victory at the highest levels, while the corresponding figure among religious Jews was 66%, among non-religious Masortim 63%, and among the secular 49%.

Public Trust in the Leadership

Four surveys conducted by JPPI since the onset of the war point to relative stability in Israeli public trust in its leadership. In February, no meaningful change in public trust in government authorities responsible for policy. Trust in the country’s prime minister, which was low even before the war, after a turbulent year of discord over the “judicial reform,” remains very low. Only 33% of Israeli Jews expressed high trust in the prime minister (somewhat or very high). This represents a slight drop from last month. Trust in the emergency government formed several days after the war began, and which includes the National Unity alliance in addition to the original governing coalition, is also very low, and has not changed significantly. From last month to this, the share of Israeli Jews who trust the government fell from 38% to 34%. Government trust levels show a very large gap between Jews and Arabs. Among Israeli Arabs, only 16% express high trust (somewhat or very high) in the government.

Trust in IDF commanders eroded further over the last month, perhaps due to the war’s prolongation without victory. Trust in IDF commanders rose slightly between October, shortly after the initial military strikes, and November, when IDF operations were well underway. January data indicated a slight drop in trust in IDF commanders, while February data show a further decline. Trust in the IDF command echelon is higher among opposition supporters (83%) than among coalition supporters (57%). A very considerable share of coalition supporters have somewhat or very low trust in IDF commanders (41%).

The relatively low levels of trust in the prime minister and in the emergency government are also reflected in a desire among most of the Israeli public to hold elections earlier than their legally-designated time two years from now. Public views on this issue are, of course, directly influenced by affiliation with particular political parties or camps, but a look at the data in its entirety indicates that when given several options for election dates, less than a third of Israelis want the elections to take place as scheduled (30%). A third want to elections to be held as soon as possible; they are, for the most part, supporters of the parties that remain in the opposition (Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beiteinu, and others). Supporters of the National Unity alliance, which according to polls is currently the party with the highest level of support in Israel, show preference for two different options. One is that elections be held within three months from date of the National Unity alliance’s withdrawal from the government. That is, these Israelis want Benny Gantz to hold the key to a decision about the timing of the elections. The other option is that elections be held “this fall.”

On the whole, supporters of the coalition parties (those who still say they would vote for one of the original right-wing or Haredi coalition parties) want elections to remain as currently scheduled (2026). Supporters of the other parties, or those currently undecided about how they will vote, support early elections.

Jewish and Arab Perceptions of Extremism

In a multiyear comparison, no significant change has occurred this year in the share of Israeli Jews who feel that many Israeli Arabs are extremists. Although there was considerable fluctuation between a 2018 survey and a 2022 survey, due perhaps to the Ra’am Party’s membership in a government during that period, this year’s data indicate that the pendulum has returned more or less to its previous place. Half of Jewish Israelis feel that many or most Arab Israelis are “politically extremist.” This is a minority view among Israeli Arabs, 20% of whom responded that many or most Arabs are extremist.

As expected, the opinions of Jews regarding Arab “extremism” are strongly influenced by political outlook and religiosity level. Among the secular, 35% feel that many Arabs are politically extreme, while 72% of Datiim and 88% of Haredim hold that view. Among those who vote for the Jewish opposition parties, 23% feel that many Arabs are extremist, but among those who vote for the Jewish coalition parties, the share is 74%.

JPPI’s surveys conducted this year show a major spike in the share of Arabs who think that many or most Jews are “politically extremist.” The percentage of Arabs who feel that “most” Jews are extremist essentially doubled, while the share of Arabs who do not believe that many Jews are politically extremist halved. This shift may be the Arab public’s response to the rise to power of Israel’s rightist government a year and a half ago, or to the war in Gaza over the past few months. One way or another, Arab views on this issue will need to be monitored once the current tense period has passed, to determine whether the shift in Arab views is permanent, or whether the numbers will return to levels reminiscent of the two earlier surveys conducted by JPPI on the topic (2018, 2022).

The Social Situation

This month’s JPPI Israeli Society Index survey examined various aspects of Israeli social cohesion. A considerable percentage of Israeli citizens are worried about the social situation in Israel, despite a feeling that cohesiveness has strengthened somewhat that has prevailed during the war (a sentiment reflected in earlier JPPI surveys). Over a third of Israeli citizens are “very worried” about the social situation (37%), with the share of Arabs reaching higher levels (43%). Another 45% are “somewhat worried” by the social situation in Israel, which puts the total percentage at 82%-84% of Arabs and 80% of Jews.

Concern about the social situation is common to all sectors of the Israeli Jewish public. It is stronger among secular Jews (87% are very or somewhat worried), but is nevertheless shared by a majority of Datiim (64%), Masortim (84% of non-religious Masortim), and Haredim (68%). It should be noted, however, that among the secular, Masortim especially those who vote for opposition parties, worry levels were higher. These Israelis tend to choose the “very worried” option, while other groups tend toward the “somewhat worried” option.

Feelings about Different Sectors

This month’s survey looked at how the social situation affects attitudes toward different sectors of society. The questionnaire allowed participants to choose the main feelings they have toward different groups, according to eight options: closeness, partnership, esteem, indifference, fear, anger, hatred, or “none of the above.”  The results for the population as a whole indicate a dominant feeling of “closeness” when the question pertains to IDF soldiers (45% of the total population, 55% of Jews). The feeling of “partnership” predominates among Jews with regard to the Druze (49%). “Anger” predominates among Jews with regard to Haredim (37%). Arab responses with regard to most of the sectors were “indifference” or “none of the above.” One exception was the sense of “esteem” that 24% of Arabs expressed toward “high-tech entrepreneurs,” and the “hatred” that 21% of them expressed toward “settlers.” Among Jews, the dominant feelings toward settlers are “closeness” (25%) and “anger (26%), which of course correlate with the respondents’ political views.

Sentiments about different societal sectors are of course influenced by sectoral affiliation, political orientation, and religiosity level. While “rightists” elicit positive feelings from 58% of the Jewish public, this is clearly related to the fact that most Jewish Israelis position themselves on the right or center-right of the political spectrum. Attitudes toward the Bedouin are also affected by sectoral affiliation (Jew or Arab, right or left), as are attitudes toward “settlers.” Overall, survey respondents fall into three main attitudinal categories. One comprises groups for which the consensus is positive. These are groups that elicit few negative feelings, and that generally elicit positive or indifferent feelings. These groups include IDF soldiers, the Druze, political centrists, Diaspora Jews, and kibbutzniks. Other groups elicit both relatively strong positive and negative feelings. Simply put, these are groups for which emotional disagreement prevails, based on a sectoral breakdown of some kind. This is true of the Haredim, leftists, rightists (to a lesser degree), the National Religious, the Bedouin, and others. Among coalition supporters, 43% express a sense of “closeness” with the Haredim, while 57% of opposition supporters feel “anger” toward the Haredim (and 9% feel “hatred” toward them). The third category comprises a single group: Muslim Arabs. This is the only sector that elicits strong negative feelings and markedly little positive feeling among Jews: 24% of Jews say they “fear” Arabs, 14% expressed “anger” toward them, and 11% expressed “hatred.”

Regarding the internal sentiment breakdown toward different sectors, there are a few additional comparisons of interest, such as that between the degree to which Datiim esteem the Haredim, versus the degree to which Haredim esteem Datiim. In this comparison, we find that while the Haredim express almost no negative feelings toward Datiim, among the Datiim there is a sizeable group that expresses “anger” as its predominant feeling toward the Haredim.

We also find interesting disparities when comparing two groups of Israelis who are not religiously observant, but who self-identify differently: the secular versus the non-religious Masortim. These two groups are largely similar in terms of lifestyle, but differ ideologically, as well as in their attitudes toward other groups. In the following table we can see the major disparity between these two groups in their feelings toward a third group: the National Religious (Datiim Leumiim). Among the secular, many feel “anger” toward the Dati sector, while the non-religious Masortim display low anger levels and high levels of “closeness.” It should be noted that the secular have even stronger feelings of anger toward the Haredim (54%) and toward settlers (42%).

Another comparison indicates that a sizeable group of Jewish Israelis feel “anger” or even “hatred” toward “Tel Avivim,” and we may assume that this refers not to a geographic place of residence, but rather to the prevailing image of Tel Aviv residents among various subsets of Israeli society. In fact, except among the secular (the largest population group in Israel) in all other groups between one-fifth to one-quarter of respondents expressed a strong negative emotion toward “Tel Avivim.”

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Data was collected for the Jewish People Policy Institute survey by TheMadad.com (600 Jewish-sector interviewees via an online poll) and by Afkar Research (200 Arab-sector interviewees, half online and half by phone). The data was analyzed and weighted by Professor Camil Fuchs to constitute a representative sample of the adult Israeli population, with further analysis by JPPI fellow Noah Slepkov. The report was written by Shmuel Rosner, who leads the JPPI Israeli Society Index project.

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