Of 24 countries that the Pew Research Center surveyed earlier this year, Israel had the most unfavorable view (62%) of the United Nations. Thirty-one percent of Israelis viewed the international body favorably, the lowest percentage of any country in the data.
The next closest was Argentina, with just 36% viewing the United Nations favorably, although only 27% of Argentinians viewed it unfavorably, per new data from Pew.
Japan had the next highest unfavorable ratings after Israel’s (50% unfavorable, 40% favorable) and then came several countries with high unfavorability rates but higher favorable ones: Greece (45%, 49%), the United States (40%, 58%), Spain (37%, 59%) and Australia (34%, 64%). The median of the 24 countries was an unfavorable rating of 28% and a favorable one of 63%.
The United Nations had the most fans in Poland (86% favorable, 8% unfavorable), Sweden (81%, 16%), Kenya (79%, 16%), South Korea (79%, 18%) and Nigeria (77%, 16%). The United Kingdom viewed the United Nations favorably at a rate of 72% with 25% unfavorable.
Pew surveyed a national, random sample of 3,576 American adults from March 20-26 and relied on nationally representative phone polls (and online surveys in Australia) of 27,275 adults worldwide, conducted between Feb. 20 and May 22. Due to COVID-19, this is the first time since 2019 that Pew’s Global Attitudes Survey included responses from Africa and Latin America.
“The Israeli public has historically expressed unfavorable views toward the U.N.: At least 58% have viewed the organization negatively since this question was first asked in 2007,” according to Pew.
Pew’s data shows that Israeli public opinion of the United Nations has improved by five percentage points since 2022, when just 26% of Israelis saw the United Nations favorably. That was the largest improvement in favorability score in the past year of any of the 24 countries, though Moira Fagan, a research associate at Pew, told JNS that the five percentage points do not represent a statistically significant change.
“Israelis who place themselves on the left of the ideological spectrum have grown much more favorable toward the U.N. over the past year: In 2022, 48% of those on the left had a positive opinion of the U.N., compared with 64% who have the same view this year, a statistically significant change,” she told JNS.
Ethnic Jews and Arabs in overall sample
Positive views on the Israeli right towards the United Nations have not changed in the past year, according to Fagan.
In the seven surveys of Israeli opinions about the United Nations that Pew has conducted since 2007, sample sizes have ranged from 900 to 1,201. In 2023, when 1,001 Israelis were surveyed, 6% viewed the United Nations very favorably and 25% somewhat favorably, while 32% viewed the body somewhat unfavorably and 30% very unfavorably. The remaining 7% didn’t know or declined to answer.
Those numbers were slightly different from last year when Pew surveyed 1,000 Israelis. Just 3% had very favorable and 23% had somewhat favorable views of the United Nations, while 40% had somewhat unfavorable and 30% had very unfavorable views, while 5% didn’t say.
Pew calculates statistically significant changes based on sample size and design effect (which involves estimates based on weighting for certain populations), according to Fagan. In Israel, Pew included ethnic Jews and Arabs in the overall sample, and 98% were citizens.
In 2023, the unweighted sample was 58% Jews, 38% Arabs and 3% other, and after weighting, the sample was 78% Jews, 19% Arabs and 3% other, “in line with official figures,” said Fagan. “We weight to gender by ethnicity, age by ethnicity, education, region, urbanicity and probability of selection of the respondent.”
Since 2007, significant changes have not been noted regarding Israeli views of the United Nations with a few exceptions.
“Between 2007 and 2009, Israelis grew significantly less favorable toward the U.N. and more unfavorable,” Fagan told JNS. “The seven-percentage point increase in the very unfavorable category between 2007 and 2009 is also statistically significant.”
To determine where Israelis stand politically, pollsters asked participants to rate themselves on a scale from zero (“extreme left”) to six (“extreme right”). Pew identified those from zero to two as left, three as center, and four to six as right.
The difference (48 percentage points) in Israel between the political left and right was the most pronounced in the countries Pew surveyed. Just 16% on the Israeli right saw the United Nations favorably, compared to 64% on the left and 36% in the center.
“Israelis on the left have grown even more favorable toward the organization over the past year: In 2022, 48% of those on the left had a positive opinion of the UN, compared with 64% who have the same view this year,” per Pew.
Human rights, peace and economic development
Education was also a factor, noted Fagan. Israelis with post-secondary educations or more were likelier than those with secondary educations or less to have a positive view of the United Nations, she told JNS.
In the United States, 34% of the right, 64% of the center and 79% of the left saw the United Nations favorably. Greece was the only exception to this pattern. Fifty-seven percent of the Greek right saw the United Nations favorably, compared to 48% of the center and 41% of the left.
Since 2019, several countries have become much more favorable toward the United Nations, including Nigeria (+19), India (+17) and Kenya (+10), while Argentinians’ view has dropped two percentage points.
In the United States, 61% saw the United Nations favorably in 2022, which dropped to 58% this year.
“The three-percentage point drop in U.N. favorability among Americans over the last year is statistically significant,” Fagan told JNS. “Overall, the share of conservative Americans as well as older Americans (those ages 50 and older) are less favorable toward the U.N.”
“The share of each group having a positive opinion has significantly declined since 2022,” she added. “In the 2020 survey, we also found large divides between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to characterize the U.N. in positive terms.”
Respondents in prior surveys, not including Israelis, have said that the United Nations promotes human rights, peace and economic development, and “fewer have said it cares about the needs of everyday people or deals effectively with international problems,” per Pew.