Obama’s Visit Did Little to Raise His Ratings in Israel

By Julie Stahl | August 6, 2008 | 9:10 AM EDT

A week after Obama’s July trip, 38 percent of Israelis surveyed said they liked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) for president as opposed to 31 percent who chose Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – Sen. Barack Obama’s whirlwind trip to Israel in July did little to raise his standing among ordinary Israelis, according to a new poll.
A week after Obama’s trip in July, 38 percent of Israelis surveyed said they liked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) for president as opposed to 31 percent who chose Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Another 31 percent were undecided or refused to answer. The poll was conducted by the Israeli company Keevoon, Research, Strategy and Communication
A similar poll conducted on June 26 by Makor Rishon showed 36 percent favoring McCain, 27 percent favoring Obama and 37 percent undecided.
“I thought he [Obama] would get a much greater level of support because of the media frenzy [surrounding his visit],” said Keevoon pollster Mitchell Barak.
According to Barak, the views of Israelis have absolutely “zero” effect on the way American Jews vote. The results are simply interesting, he said. Israel is very dependent on the U.S., which Israel considers to be its greatest ally, he added.
During his 30-hour visit, Obama was well received by the Israeli political establishment.
He held meetings with senior Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres.
Obama visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and held a press conference in the rocket-plagued city of Sderot. He also met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israelis were saturated with media coverage of Obama, pollster Barak told CNSNews.com. “I was surprised there was not more of a lasting affect.”
Among Israelis, the poll showed that young people aged 18-24 supported Obama 49 percent to McCain’s 30 percent while those over 55 favored McCain 46 percent to Obama’s 23 percent.
McCain’s strongest supporters were from rightwing and religious parties while Obama’s strongest support came from the far-left Meretz party, poll results showed.
When Sen. Hillary Clinton was still in the running, polls indicated she was by far the favorite of Israelis for American president.
Some analysts explained Clinton’s popularity by saying that she was a known quantity in Israel and therefore popular. Former President Bill Clinton was considered a great friend of Israel. (But now President Bush is considered the best friend that Israel ever had.)
Since Hillary Clinton dropped out of the race, Israelis have tended to favor McCain because of his military experience and more hawkish security views.
Israelis have been wary of Obama because of his willingness to hold a dialogue with Iranian leaders and because of the turnaround he made on the issue of Jerusalem – first calling it the undivided capital of Israel and then saying he had misspoken and the status of the city should be decided in talks between Israel and the Palestinians.