A new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll gives us further insight into what Americans think about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
3,016 respondents were asked about BDS as part of the poll. 49% of them said they had heard of the movement. Among those who had heard of it, just 8% of Republicans said they “strongly or somewhat” support BDS. However, 48% of Democrats and 27% of independents said they did.
Respondents were also asked how they felt about two common arguments regarding BDS. “BDS is a legitimate, peaceful way of opposing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories,” reads the first argument, “Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, BDS urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. Opposing Israeli policy does not equal anti-Semitism.” Overall, 43% disagreed with this argument; 69% of Republicans disagreed and 13% of Democrats.
“Regardless of how BDS defines itself, it is an anti-Israel organization attempting to weaken Israel and to undermine its legitimacy. Some of its supporters are opponents of Israel’s very existence and may even be anti-Semitic,” reads the other argument. 49% of Democrats disagreed with this statement and just 7% of Republicans did.
When asked about laws that penalize supporters of BDS, the majority of every political group said they were opposed to them: 80% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans and 76% of independents.
The polling indicates that awareness of BDS is growing. A J Street poll from last May found that almost 64% of Democrats had never even heard of the movement. Shibley Telhami is the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and the Director of these polls. “For a few years now, the polls have consistently shown a majority of Democrats wanting to take action against Israeli settlements, including imposing sanctions, while Republicans and independents wanted to do nothing or limit opposition to words,” he explained in a write-up on the poll results, “But until this fall, I had not asked directly about the BDS movement, as it was not on the radar screen of most Americans. However, the recent debates in Congress and elsewhere have raised the profile of the issue.”
A Data for Progress poll from last fall generated similar numbers, finding that 53% of Democratic voters thought the movement was legitimate and 44% supported it. Just 15% of the Democratic voters polled said that they opposed the movement.
All this polling and analysis seems to point to an obvious conclusion: the high-profile BDS battles of 2019 have raised awareness for the movement and that awareness has come with increased support.