How to spin a poll on cultural boycott
Madonna on stage during her controversial tour of Israel last June
By Marcus Dysch, Jewish Chronicle
September 28, 2012
An overwhelming majority of the British public opposes a cultural boycott of Israel.
New polling figures reveal fewer than one in five Brits believe that Israeli actors, dancers or musicians should not be welcome to perform here, and three-quarters can see no reason why British performers should not travel to Israel.
The figures are revealed in an exclusive poll conducted for the JC by YouGov.
The research follows a number of high-profile disruptions of Israeli cultural performances in Britain, including the barracking of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms, protests against the Habima theatre company when it appeared at the Globe, and disturbances during the Batsheva contemporary dance group’s appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Asked whether Israeli performers “should not be welcome to perform in Britain, even if they receive a subsidy from the Israeli government”, 53 per cent of the public disagreed, saying they had no objection. A further 30 per cent said they did not know.
Just 17 per cent believe Israelis should not be welcome in Britain – a figure far below the level of support claimed by anti-Israel and pro-boycott campaigners.
The number backing a boycott does not rise above one in four in any of the categories polled, including when defining the public by age, gender, income and background, geographic location or voting intention.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters are slightly more opposed to a boycott than Labour backers, with 61 per cent of supporters of both parties happy to welcome Israelis, compared to 54 per cent of Labour voters.
There is noticeably more support for Israeli artists among older people, with 61 per cent of over-60s backing performers coming to Britain, compared to 48 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds. Support is also considerably higher among men than women.
A slightly higher percentage of Scots back a boycott, with one in five believing Israelis should not be welcomed.
When the question was reversed, the majority supported British arts figures going to Israel.
While one in four objected to Brits performing there, 73 per cent of those asked said actors, dancers and musicians should be willing to appear in Israel or said they did not know.
Lib Dem voters were the most vocal opponents of the proposition that Britons should not go to Israel, with more than one in three opposed to performances in the country. Conservative voters were the most supportive, with fewer than one in four backing a boycott.
The polling was carried out on Sunday and Monday, with more than 1,700 adults across Britain questioned.
Anti-Israel activists have previously suggested support for cutting cultural ties is high among the British public, with further claims that Israel is now regarded in the same category as apartheid South Africa during the 1980s.
Film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have been among the leading British proponents of a boycott, while Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna and Rihanna have ignored calls to cancel performances in Israel.
Israeli boycott poll
By Harris MacLeod, YouGov
September 28, 2012
A plurality (37%) of Britons support British actors, dancers and musicians performing in Israel, but a considerable percentage (27%) are also in favour of British entertainers boycotting the country, according to our poll commissioned by the Jewish Chronicle.
The poll found that:
37% of UK adults believe British entertainers should be willing to perform in Israel
27% believe they should not
36% say they don’t know
Support for British artists performing in Israel was highest amongst Conservative party supporters, while those intending to vote Labour and Liberal Democrat were more divided on the issue.
50% of Tory supporters believe British entertainers should be willing to perform in Israel, while 24% were opposed
33% of Labour Party voters were supportive, while nearly as many 31% were in favour of British performers boycotting the country
Amongst Liberal Democrats, 33% were in favour of British entertainers performing in Israel, and slightly more (36%) were opposed
Israeli performers welcome in UK
When asked if Israeli actors, dancers and musicians should be welcome to perform in Britain (even if they receive a subsidy from the Israeli government), the public were more decisive in their support. A majority (53%) say Israeli performers should be welcome to perform in Britain, while only 17% believe they should not be welcome. This majority view was held across political persuasions, but was slightly lower for Labour voters (54%) than for Tories and Lib Dems (61%).
See the full results here
How to spin a poll
JfJfP Postings Editor
October 4, 2012
The majority of British people who oppose cultural boycott of Israel is a minuscule 1%. This is the difference between those who think British performers should go to Israel and those who don’t or don’t know.
Even at the height of campaigns against apartheid South Africa, cultural boycotts were very controversial amongst campaigners who feared the cultural isolation it would impose on the very people whose internal opposition to the apartheid regime was needed. So it is overwhelmingly astonishing that a poll carried out by Yougov in September 2012 on the cultural boycott of Israelis – and not just those implicated in the Occupation — should find such a large proportion of the British people who do support a cultural boycott, particularly of British performers going to Israel. This will exceed the expectations of boycott campaigers none of whom has ever put a figure on – or claimed a majority for – their campaign.
Currently, there are no cultural boycott campaigns on the BIG (Boycott Israeli Goods) website. The Jews4Big website carries an article on the boycott campaign at the Edinburgh Festival this summer. It points out that ‘ Zionists vigorously pursued their own cultural boycott campaign against Soviet targets in the 1980s, disrupting ballet and orchestral performances in pursuit of their political goal of bringing dissident Soviet Jews to Israel.’
The massive majority of those polled who do oppose cultural boycotts against Israel are old, Conservative men. This is despite the fact that leading critics of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians, who do not support cultural boycott, are not predominantly over 60, Conservative or male. Yet another area where ‘the Jewish state’ has a demographic problem.
Pollsters Yougov were, significantly, not asked by the commissioning Jewish Chronicle to find out about opinions on boycotting products made by Israeli firms in the occupied Palestinian territories, or used for military purposes. It is these products which are most often the target of boycotting campaigns and the absence of any question here is odd given how frequently the Jewish Chronicle claims that product boycotters inflate their claims of support and success. Instead, the opinion poll asked two very different questions. The first asked if British performers should be willing to perform in Israel, the second asked if Israeli performers should be welcome to perform in Britain.
Obviously, members of the public, as represented here, are unlikely to tell professional performers where they should or should not perform so the overwhelming proportion of people who said ‘Don’t know’ is hardly surprising. The fact that almost a third of British people did say they thought Britons should not perform in Israel—-compared with under two-fifths who thought they should—-is remarkable given how little most people know about the issues involved.
The second asked if Israeli performers should be welcome to perform in Britain. This is a different sort of question as it asks us as members of an audience and host nation, what we think. On this, it is easier to have an opinion and there were fewer don’t knows- though again the distinction between men – most of whom had an opinion – and women was significant
Only just over half those asked said Israeli performers should be welcome, almost a third said don’t know and one sixth said no. The fact that anyone but the most churlish said they should not be welcome is surprising as it is such a long-standing principle of international relations to ‘welcome’ visitors. In fact, the only people likely to get a large score as unwelcome would be terrorists or demagogic hate-mongers.
Below, we give those figures in more detail
Do you think British actors, dancers or musicians should or should not be willing to perform in Israel?
Should 37% Don’t know 36% Should not 27%
Largest ‘should be willing’ (46-48%): male, Conservative, 60+,
Largest ‘should not’ (28-32%) LibDem, female, 25-39 yrs
The largest category among all women was ‘Don’t know’ – 45% versus 27-28% with an opinion; the largest category in all under 60s was Don’t know. The largest category in Labour voters was Don’t know.
Do you think Israeli actors, dancers or musicians should or should not be welcome to perform in Britain
Largest should be welcome (61%): Conservative, male, 60+
Should be welcome was the preferred option in the gender, voting and age categories with ‘Don’t know’ the second in all categories.
The largest support for ‘Should not be welcome’ (17-19%) came from Lab/Lib Dem, female, 18-24yrs categories (though here the differences are too small to bear much weight, that is, those who are not Conservative elderly men are pretty similar in their views.)