A survey by the important European research institute YouGov found a significant improvement over the last year in Europeans’ opinion of Israel and a decrease in the level of disapproval.
YouGov has been collecting data on Israel on a quarterly basis since September 2016 in these countries: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden – with the survey conducted on a representative sample of 1,000 respondents or more in each country.
These findings are part of a larger picture of Israeli impact, as shown by other studies conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in recent months.
Among other things, the analysis of European media regarding Israel shows that the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Europe is declining (35% of the coverage of Israel in 2020 dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared with 42% in 2019 and 68% in 2008). Media preoccupation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is considered detrimental to Israel’s image [no pun intended].
At the same time, other positive issues for Israel are on the rise, including the Abraham Accords, the perception of Israel as a moral asset (e.g. for its contributions in science, water, technology, tourism, etc.) and its successes in the fight against the Coronavirus.
The survey findings show that the media strategy and public diplomacy activities employed by Israel’s Foreign Ministry to strengthen Israel’s image and emphasize its capabilities and successes are achieving positive results.
The study indicates an overall 8% increase in positive opinion for Israel in Europe over the past year (February 2020 to February 2021). In France, Israel’s approval rating in the past year has risen from 22% to 34% – a jump of 50%. On the other hand, there is a decrease in the level of “negative opinion” from 54% to 47% in France. In all the countries surveyed, the level of negative opinion for Israel decreased by an average of 7%. In comparison, Europeans’ opinion of Russia, according to the survey, fell from 21% to 16%; and support for Britain has dropped from 65% to 60% (probably because of the Brexit).
The largest increase in positive opinion for Israel last year was in the recent seven months, from August 2020 to February 2021. The Foreign Ministry credits the Abraham Accords and the success of the Corona campaign for the growing perception in Europe that Israel is a country of moral value with relevance for the European continent. In comparison, over the same period there was no noticeable increase in positive opinion for any of the other countries examined (Germany, France, Japan, England, India, Egypt, China, Russia, Turkey and Iran). According to the survey, last year the United States had a significant drop in European positive opinion until November 2020. Since November there has been a sharp increase in European sympathy for the USA – likely attributable to the presidential election results.
In England, positive opinion for Israel rose from 24% to 30% – a 25% increase in approval. In Germany, positive opinion rose from 30 to 35% – a 17% increase. In Denmark, positive opinion of Israel has risen from 25% to 33% – an increase of about 30%. In none of the countries examined was there a decrease in approval for Israel. On the contrary: there was a decrease in negative opinion for Israel.
It should be noted that objectively Israel still has a long way to go, and sympathy for it is not yet high. But the improvement over the past year is undoubtedly significant.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi:
”The Foreign Ministry maintains a transformed and open political dialogue with European countries in which Israeli interests are presented in full clarity. Europe understands Israel’s moral value as an anchor of stability, security and equity as an asset in the areas of health and the fight against Corona. For the first time, an Israeli foreign minister was invited to a meeting of European foreign ministers. Many countries recognized Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and adopted antisemitic definitions, and even supported Israel’s position on the ICC.”
Noam Katz, Deputy Director General of Public Diplomacy at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
”There is a significant positive change in public opinion in Europe regarding the relevance of Israel and the viability of connecting with Israel. The data in this survey, as in other studies we conduct, reflect the activities of Israeli public diplomacy in Europe, with an emphasis on the strengths of Israel during the Corona period and the Abraham Accords.”