A study commissioned by the Abraham Initiatives shows that center-left parties that appeal to the Arab public with messages of equality and political partnership will not lose support among Jewish voters. The survey is part of a larger study commissioned by the organization to examine attitudes among the Arab public on crucial issues during the current election period, together with a study of attitudes among the Jewish population.
The study was conducted by the aChord Center, headed by Prof. Eran Halperin, through the iPanel polling company. The survey included 707 Jewish citizens participants who voted at the last elections for Kahol Lavan, Likud, Meretz, Labor, Kulanu, and Israel Beitenu. The poll was conducted from August 15-20, 2019.
In the first part of the survey, the participants were asked who they voted for in the recent elections (April 2019). They were then exposed to an advertisement they were told had been published in an Arabic newspaper in which Benny Gantz, the head of the largest center-left party participating in the elections for the 22nd Knesset, presented one of the following four messages: (1) A message of “control” (a commitment to address issues of concern to Israeli society in general); (2) A message of narrowing gaps and addressing problems of concern to Arab society; (3) A message of full equality and the addressing racism; (4) Full political participation and equal representation of the Arab minority in Israel as part of the government. Lastly, the participants were asked who they intend to vote for in the upcoming elections, and their answers were compared to their vote in the recent elections. The next stage of the survey will examine the impact of similar messages among right-wing voters.
The current stage of the research shows that the type of message voters were exposed to did not damage the level of support for the center-left party; one message was even found to slightly increase their support. The “control” message (i.e. one whose essence lies in the mere act of addressing the Arab public) led to a very small decline (of around 5%) in the number of participants stating that they intend to vote for Kahol Lavan. This is consistent with the decline that has been seen in various other polls for the party in general. No significant additional decline was seen regarding two other messages (5% for political partnership and 7% for narrowing gaps). The message of equality and addressing racism actually led to an increase in support for the center-left party among the Jewish participants (11%). This is probably because message is perceived as reflecting a more value-based position, thereby enhancing the image of the head of the party as someone who is credible, moral, honest, and loyal.
The survey findings complement the findings of an earlier survey commissioned by the Abraham Initiatives together with Sikkuy and the aChord Center. This earlier survey found that the main factor that would increase voter turnout among Arab citizens is a clear message from center-left leaders that they will work to secure equality, narrow gaps, and promote political participation. 30.7% of the respondents in this survey stated that a commitment by Zionist parties to act on these important issues would increase their motivation to vote. 25% stated that they would be more inclined to vote if the Zionist parties committed themselves to equality, while almost 20% stated that they would be more likely to vote if center-left parties reached out to the Arabs.
Based on the results of these two surveys, we can conclude that messaging campaigns around closing gaps, promoting equality, and advancing political partnership towards Arab voters will strengthen the level of trust and turnout among these voters. At the same time, these messages will not affect or harm the level of support for the center-left parties among the Jewish public.
Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, Co-Executive Directors of the Abraham Initiatives, commented on the survey findings: “The survey shows that the fear that appealing to the Arab public will lead to a loss of support among Jewish voters is an imaginary and unfounded fear. There is a historical opportunity here. It has been proven that the Jewish public isn’t deterred by political partnership and full equality with Arabs. An appeal to the Arab public will strengthen turnout among Arab votes. This is clearly in the interests of all of us.”