May 23, 2019

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Surprise! The poll that shows Americans against embassy move used biased questions

Major polls that have been quoted in the media that suggest that Americans are against the move of the US Embassy from Tel Avvi to Jerusalem are biased against the move.

The Washington Post says:

Americans are more lukewarm on the subject, including Republicans. The University of Maryland’s November 2017 Critical Issues Poll found that Americans disagreed with the idea of moving the embassy immediately by a 2-to-1 margin after being offered arguments for or against doing so. Republicans were about split on the question.

While readers of this blog might know the history of the issue, most Americans don’t. So pollsters  will give a brief synopsis of the issues and then ask people their opinion.

If the synopsis is wrong, the poll is invalid – because for a significant number of respondents, all they know about the issue is what the poll says!

In the case of this Critical Issues Poll, the head of the organization behind the poll is Shibley Telhami, an Arab professor born in Israel.

First he asks people which of the two sides they most closely identify with, by skewing the facts:

Q60. President Trump pledged during his 2016 presidential campaign to move the U.S. Embassy  in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But, like previous presidents since Congress passed the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, he has renewed a waiver that will temporarily keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, based on national security interests. Now tell me the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements.

Q60a. The U.S. should not immediately move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The
international community, including the UN and European allies have not accepted
Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which was occupied in the 1967 War. The U.S.
Government’s position has been that the ultimate status of Jerusalem has to be agreed in
negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. If the U.S. were to move its
embassy to Jerusalem, it would be violating international norms, harming important
relationships worldwide, and generating anti-American sentiments among Arabs and
Muslims globally.

The poll gives 5 reasons not to move the embassy, most of which are irrelevant to moving the embassy to pre-1967 Israel or simply not true.

 Q60b. The U.S. should immediately move its embassy to Jerusalem. The Embassy should
be located in Jerusalem to fulfill the president’s pledge, and there is no national security
reason to file an exception to the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. Such an act would serve
to demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. to the State of Israel and to its control over a
unified Jerusalem as its capital.

The main reason to support it are – to show how much the US supports Israel!
No wonder the people chose not to move the embassy by a 2-1 margin.
Now, imagine if the second part was phrased this way:

Jerusalem has been the spiritual home of the Jewish people for 3000 years. Palestinians have never ruled Jerusalem, and under Arab rule access to holy places was limited. The city that was a neglected slum under Arab rule is now a beautiful city with access to all.  Every country in the world is allowed to choose where its capital would be, and Israel should be no exception. It is time that the US recognizes the plain fact that Jerusalem is already Israel’s capital, where its government offices and parliament are. 

All facts, all accurate – and all anathema to Shelby Telhami.

A similar poll done earlier this year was even more biased:

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