When I look at the charts that Yglesias provides for this post, I don't come to the same cynical conclusions he does.
Gallup reports: Support for Israel at 63%, near record high.
In the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict, a striking 63% of Americans currently say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis, the highest level in nearly 20 years. Support for the Palestinians, at 15%, is about average for the same period. At the same time, Gallup finds Americans' fundamental views of Israel no more favorable than they have been for the past several years. Israel does continue to enjoy a substantial advantage over the Palestinian Authority in its general image, a fact that clearly colors the ways Americans view the conflict.And here's the charts:
Americans are no more optimistic today than they were last year that peace can be reached between Israel and the Palestinians -- and they are, in fact, less optimistic than they were toward the end of the Bush administration. This is largely owing to a drop in optimism among independents.
It's clear that Republicans are consistently more favorable toward Israel than Democrats, although in 2001 there wasn't much of a gap between them. Views among Democrats have fluctuated a bit between 2001 and 2010, but with no really big differences. Independents have risen significantly since 2001. Why do these differences exist?
This poll is interesting - during the years of maximum effort by the Clinton administration, the optimism about peace was fairly high, but I can't remember anything in particular happening in 2003 or 2005 that would have led to such optimism. Am I forgetting some significant events? The Iraq War started in 2003 - not something that would have led me to optimism about peace. In the summer of 2005 Israel left Gaza - perhaps that was the factor.
It would be interesting to compare these charts with polls of Israelis and Palestinians taken during the 2000s - would the optimism level chart the same way?
Both support for Israel and pessimism about the possibility of peace are correlated with Republican partisan self-identification. To conjecture a bit beyond what the data can strictly tell us, I think it’s plausible to posit that there’s a large Republican-identified Christian Zionist bloc that’s extremely comfortable with the idea of aligning itself with Israel for the purposes of an endless religious war and of course they have their counterparts in the “revisionist” strand of Zionism in Israel and among American Jews. To my way of thinking—and I think that of most Jewish liberals—this is a chilling vision and we choose to believe that the conflict both can and will be resolved at some point. But many Americans have a level of cultural and ideological affiliation with violence and coercive domination that makes it easy for them to identify with this version of future Israeli history.He's probably right that much of the Republican/Democratic difference here is based on different religious attitudes in the large conservative Christian portion of the Republican support. But why would he think it's for the purpose of "endless religious war"? What evidence is there in these charts? I don't see it. The charts just report on the party differences, they don't tell us the reasons for them. I also think it's deeply cynical to say that the reasons "many Americans" support Israel because of American's "level of cultural and ideological affiliation with violence and coercive domination." This is not an analysis, it's an expression of his ideological beliefs. I'd like to see some survey evidence to back up his claims.
I would like to know why conservative Christians actually support Israel. Not why people like John Hagee support Israel, but the spectrum of conservative evangelicals and Catholics, broken down by type of religious movement (Pentecostal, African-American church, non-Pentecostal evangelicals, etc). Based simply on some meager anecdotal evidence, my experience with conservative Christians is that they support Israel because they view Judaism and the Jewish people as forming the roots of Christianity, and they believe that the covenant between the Jewish people and God has not been abrogated by the rise of Christianity. But again, this is not evidence. If any of my readers have an idea of where to search for this information, I'd be happy to know.