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Donkey & Elephant

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks sent me an email Thursday with the disturbing headline: “Shocking: Democrats Like Communist Cuba More Than Democratic Israel.” The email offered a link to the Washington Free Beacon, a pro-Trump outlet, which ran the story under the headline, “Democrats Like Cuba More Than Israel, New Poll Shows.” The story pointed to the source of the new poll in question: a YouGov poll in their Travel & Countries section, titled: “What countries do Americans like most?

I’ll admit I was immediately intrigued, especially when I realized that Israel does not figure anywhere near the top 10 countries Americans favor. In fact, deeper in the data, YouGov shows that even the United States of America is not the most popular country in America. That spot is reserved to Australia – 76% of Americans love Kangaroos, lager beer, and putting more shrimps on the barbie better than they do Apple Pie on the 4th of July. Only 74% of Americans prefer America.

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Israel? It doesn’t even rank in the top ten most favored countries. Somebody tell Bibi: the Jewish state is ranked number 28 on the list of The most popular countries in America. Canada is the third most popular, and Mexico, that other country in North America, is only 30th.

But Matt Brooks wasn’t into all of the above, he was concerned about a different, more sinister aspect of the seemingly harmless YouGov poll:

“It is shocking, but sadly not surprising, that in a public opinion poll of Americans rating the popularity of different countries, the greatest disparity between Republicans and Democrats is about Israel. In the YouGov ratings released this week, Israel’s popularity among Democrats was 33 points lower than among Republicans. In fact, a higher percentage of Democrats looks favorably on communist Cuba than on Israel, our fellow democracy and strongest ally.”

Brooks refers to a segment of the poll that asked: Which countries most divide Democrats and Republicans?

Democrats like Mexico, France, Cuba, Kenya, and Jamaica more than Republicans; GOP voters like Israel, USA, Poland, Russia, and Ireland more than Democrats.

However, it should be noted that no one asked the poll respondents which country they liked better, Israel or Cuba. The YouGov folks, in compiling their list of most popular countries in America, also included a field that asked about the respondents’ political affiliation. Squeezing the “shocked” story out of this one makes for a great headline, about which I’m understandably envious, but I suspect it does not reflect hostility toward Israel among most Democrats.

There’s another “devil in the details” part to this story. The poll shows that only 36% of Democrats viewed Israel as popular, vs. 69% of Republicans. And 39% of Democrats considered Cuba popular, compared with 16% of Republicans. But what exactly does the term “popular” mean in this context? Is it a political statement? A vacation destination? A general notion of likability?

Which leads me to the question of why do republicans hate France so much? A whopping 71% of democrats declared France was way up there on their popularity scale, compared to only 43% of Republicans? Is it the rich cuisine? The smell of chocolate croissants and delicious coffee wafting through the boulevard in the morning? What have the France ever done to the Republicans? Why, they practically invented Republicanism.

But Matt Brooks kept his guns blazing: “This shift in the Democratic grassroots was deeply disturbing when it became apparent, but we hoped that the historical bipartisan support for Israel among American legislators and policy makers would continue. However, with the rise of the progressive Left in the Democrat Party – led by Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and the “Squad” of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and others – Democratic leaders have moved farther away from support of Israel as well,” he wrote.

I’m not completely convinced. VP candidate Kamala Harris has visited Israel several times, met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, visited the Wall and Yad Vashem, and told the New York Times, “I think Israel as a country is dedicated to being a democracy and is one of our closest friends in that region, and that we should understand the shared values and priorities that we have as a democracy, and conduct foreign policy in a way that is consistent with understanding the alignment between the American people and the people of Israel.”

But I digress. The YouGov poll also looked for Americans’ top 10 worst countries, the top 5 of which are North Korea, Iran, Iraq, China, and Russia. Now, 48% of respondents hate Russia. But in the part about the countries over which Democrats and Republicans are divided, more Republicans than Democrats favored Russia. Should democrats be shocked? Not really. While 84% of Democrats hated Russia, “only” 81% of Republicans felt the same way about the birthplace of snow.

But I do salute any fellow human being, especially a Jewish brother, who is still capable of being shocked in the final quarter of 2020. Kol Hakavod.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.