Gries, Peter Hays. “How Ideology Divides American Liberals and Conservatives over Israel.” Political Science Quarterly 130.1 (2015): 51-78.
This article has argued that Main Street American liberals and conservatives differ substantially in their feelings and foreign policy preferences toward the Middle East. Conservatives feel warmer toward Israel but cooler toward Iran, the Palestinians, and Muslims than liberals do. Conservatives, furthermore, desire a friendlier foreign policy toward Israel than liberals do.
It has further argued that these differences have their origins in many of the same ideological fissures that cleave domestic American politics. The same culture wars that divide Americans on abortion and gay marriage also divide Americans on Israel and the Palestinians. For instance, our 2011 survey revealed that biblical literalism is a powerful predictor of both opposition to abortion (β = .62), and warmth toward Israel (β = .36). Similarly, the racial politics that has divided Americans from the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the voting rights battles of today also divides social liberals and conservatives in their feelings toward the Palestinian people. Conservatives tend to view Palestinians and other Muslims as threats to both Christianity and established authorities, while liberals have a greater tendency to view their plight in the West Bank and Gaza as analogous to segregation or even apartheid, triggering liberal moralities of compassion and social justice.
Many Republican politicians today appear to be representing the extreme pro-Israel views of their core constituents—very conservative primary voters. It is Democratic elites that may be more disconnected from their core constituents, adopting more pro-Israel and anti-Arab positions than their liberal primary voters, who our survey reveals are ambivalent toward Israel and sympathetic toward the Palestinians and Muslims.
By demonstrating that American opinion on the Middle East is divided along ideological lines, I hope that this article has shown that the dominance of the right wing of the Israel lobby today does not represent the subversion of the democratic process by a Jewish elite; it is instead the natural product of an American electoral system that increasingly represents and responds to the extreme ends of Main Street American opinion.