The 2010 Israel Democracy Index Findings

The results of the 2010 Israeli Democracy Index were released this morning at the residence of Israeli President, Shimon Peres, and debated over a round table discussion chaired by Dr. Arye Karmon, President, Israeli Democracy Institute and including the President, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin and Minister of Justice, Ya’akov Ne’eman.

The Index is an annually published public opinion survey which polls both Jews and Arabs. In this, its 8th year, the poll focused on the relation between the public’s theoretical support for democratic values, on the one hand, and the attitude to actual problems and practical behaviors, on the other.

The Index also compares attitudes of the Israeli public today and in the past, as well as between findings from Israel and of other democracies. The Index was calculated in the framework of the Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center while the field work was implemented by the Mahshov Institute.

The following is a summary of the Index’s key findings divided into topics.

Israel’s ranking amongst the democracies of the world

  • In most international indices, Israel ranks immediately after the established democracies, near the new democracies of Eastern Europe, Central America, and South America.
  • In recent years Israel’s overall ranking as a democracy has not improved, nor worsened.
  • Israel’s high incarceration rate combines with inadequacies in the rule of law; these fall short of the accepted standard in Western countries.
  • Although Israel’s gender equality indicators have declined, it still ranks higher than most new democracies in this regard.
  • In the Political Stability Index, Israel ranks in last among the democracies studied.
  • Israel scores low marks in the area of social cleavages; these divisions affect the country’s democratic quality and are not diminishing with time.
  • Israel improved most in the area of institutional measures, primarily as a result of the rise in its score in the governance indicators.
  • Compared with 2009, indicators of corruption in the political system did not register noticeable changes.

The public’s assessments of and attitudes towards the implementation of democracy in Israel

  • 60 percent of the population in Israel thinks that a few strong leaders would be better for Israel than all the democratic debates and legislation. 59 percent of that same group would prefer a government of experts who make decisions based on professional rather than political considerations.
  • 86 percent of the Jewish public (76 percent of the total population) thinks that decisions which are crucial for the country should be made by a majority of Jews.
  • 53 percent of this public also believes that the State is entitled to encourage the emigration of Arabs.
  • 70 percent of Israel’s population thinks that there is no justification whatsoever for using violence in order to achieve political goals.
  • 81 percent of the population agrees with the assertion that ‘While democracy is not a perfect regime, it is better than any other form of government.’ However, 55 percent of the public believe that Israel should put the rules of law and order before the ideals of democracy. Of the Jewish respondents, 60 percent of those on the political right supported this idea compared with 50 percent of those in the center and 49 percent of those on the left.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the highest, the Jewish public awards Israel’s democracy an average grade of 5.4, while the immigrants from the former USSR award it a slightly higher grade, 5.6, and the average grade awarded to it by the Arab public is slightly lower, 5.1.
  • 47 percent of the Jewish public disagrees with the assessment that Israel used to be more democratic than it is today.

Confidence in Institutions

  • 54 percent, only slightly more than half the general population in Israel today, state that they have full or partial confidence in the Supreme Court, compared with 44 percent who claim that they have no confidence in it at all.
  • Only 41 percent of respondents said that they had full or partial confidence in the police force.
  • 72 percent of the population said that they do not trust the political parties, although a 63 percent majority opposed the view that parties are no longer needed and should therefore be abolished.
  • The institution of the President continues to improve its image, and this year 70 percent of the population expresses confidence in it.

Democratic principles in practice

  • 82 percent, among the Jewish public, agreed that urgent medical treatment should be given gratis, without considering whether the individual has medical insurance or not. Only 40 percent of the Arab public supports this view.
  • Compared with 45 percent of Arab respondents, 69 percent of the Jewish population claims that the constitution is important to them.
  • 43 percent of the general population feels that it is equally important for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic country; while 31 percent regards the Jewish component as being more important, and only 20 percent defines the democratic element as being more important.
  • 41 percent of the population believed that freedom of religion and speech were implemented adequately, however, 39 percent believe that human rights are not sufficiently implemented.
  • 72 percent of the general public thinks that Israel’s democracy is adversely affected by the increase in socio-economic differences.
  • 54 percent of the Jewish public opposes the view that legislation should be passed penalizing anyone speaking out against Zionism.
  • 50 percent of the Jewish respondents agree that it is important to allow non-Zionist political parties to participate in elections.
  • 56 percent of the Jews who have been living in Israel for a long time agree that people who have refused to serve in the IDF should not be allowed to vote or stand in elections. 62 percent of the Russian immigrants disagree with this; while 76 percent of the ultra-orthodox public rejects the idea.

Views on Citizenship

  • 51 percent of the general public approves of full equal rights between Jews and Arabs. The more orthodox the group, the greater the opposition to equal rights between Jews and Arabs: only 33.5 percent of secular Jews oppose this, compared with 51 percent of traditional Jews, 65 percent of orthodox Jews and 72 percent of ultra-orthodox Jews.
  • 67 percent, of the Jewish public believes that close relatives of Arabs should not be permitted to enter Israel in the framework of the unification of families.
  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of Jews believe that as long as Israel is in conflict with the Palestinians the views of Arab citizens of Israel on foreign policy and security matters should not be taken into consideration.
  • 51.5 percent of the Jewish sample agrees that only immigrants who are Jewish as defined by the rabbinate should be entitled to receive Israeli citizenship automatically; while only 34.5 percent of immigrants from the former USSR agree with it. By segmentation, 41 percent of secular Jews and 88 percent of ultra orthodox agree while traditional Jews and orthodox Jews fall in the middle with 63 and 79 percent respectively.

Equality in the allocation of resources

  • 55 percent of the general public think that more resources should be allocated to Jewish than to Arab settlements; while only a 43 percent minority disagrees with this statement.
  • Within the Jewish public, 71 percent of right-wing supporters agree with this as compared to 46 percent of those in the center and 38 percent of those on the left. By extent of orthodoxy, 51 percent of ultra-orthodox Jews agree with the statement, while 45 percent of orthodox Jews, 28 percent of traditional Jews, and 18 percent of secular Jews agree with it.
  • 39 percent of the general population support equal funding of religious services while 35 percent oppose it. Taking only the Jewish population into account, 41 percent support it while 33 percent oppose it.
  • 54 percent of the general population supports equal funding of schools, while 26 percent oppose it.

The extent of tolerance among Israeli Jews for ‘other’ neighbors

  • 46 percent of the Jewish public admitted to Arabs bothering them the most, followed equally by mentally disturbed persons being rehabilitated in the community and then 39 percent were bothered by foreign workers. 25 percent would be bothered by same-sex couples, 23 percent by ultra-orthodox Jews, 17 percent by Ethiopian immigrants, 10 percent by non-Sabbath observers, and 8 percent by Russian immigrants.
  • The Arab public is less tolerant than Jews of ‘other’ neighbors. 70 percent thought the least desirable neighbors would be same-sex couples, 67 percent were intolerant towards ultra-orthodox Jews followed closely by 65 percent voting against former settlers. 48 percent voted that the most ‘tolerable’ neighbors would be foreign workers.