Israel Election: It's The Economy, Stupid
A final survey by Calcalist focused not on the candidates, but on the issues. It doesn't sound good for incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu.
TEL AVIV — What's driving Israeli voters as they go to the polls for Tuesday's national elections?
Beyond the candidates, a survey commissioned by Calcalist tried to understand the issues that will be guiding voting, and to unravel the line in Israel between economics and security.
The results are unequivocal: 55.2% of respondents said they will vote according to socio-economic issues, and only 28.4% put security and diplomacy at the top of their considerations.
Israel's state comptroller recently published a scathing report on the country's housing crisis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to it by saying, "When people are talking about cost of living, I don't forget life itself. The main challenge is the Iranian nuclear."
Israelis, however, believe it's the other way around. Ninety percent of respondents said cost of living will influence their vote, compared to 69% whose voting will be influenced by Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Respondents weren't asked which specific candidate they intended to support. Instead, the survey's goal was to understand what Israelis today care about, and whether the parties responded to these. The findings might, in fact, worry the Likud, Israel's current ruling party.
The survey was conducted last Tuesday by Midgam research firm, with the online forum ipanel. It included a sample of 500 Hebrew-speaking interviewees aged 18 and up. The maximum sampling error is 4.5%.
Israeli voters have many concerns. They are trying to cope with rising housing expenses and the growing costs of raising children. On the other side of the Separation Barrier, the Palestinian dynamite barrel awaits. And across the region, violent forces — such as Iran, Hamas and ISIS — are gaining momentum. All of these will need to be weighed into a single ballot.
This survey reveals the Israeli voter's priorities, and cost of living top the list: 89.7% of the respondents said this issue will affect their vote, either strongly or somewhat.
Perception and reality
Interestingly, this issue will influence 91% of those who reported they earn more than the national average. For those in the 45-54 demographic, that's 91% of men and 88% of women.
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In Tel Aviv, voting with their wallets? — Photo: Bezalel Ben-Chaim
The second-biggest concern is Israel's approach to the Palestinian issue, with 83% percent saying this will influence their voting. Of those under 24 years old, 63% said the issue will strongly influence their choice. It could be the result of a generation growing up through the horrors of the Second Intifada and still not experiencing the difficulties of Israel's middle class.
Among those in the 25-34 age group, 77% are driven by the Palestinian question. But housing costs are much more of an issue, with 84% citing this as either strongly or somewhat affecting their vote.
And these trends have changed in the past two years. In the 2013 elections, socio-economic issues dominated the voting of 46% of the respondents. This time, they guide the voting of 55% of the respondents. At the same time, 33% of the respondents voted in the previous elections mostly on security issues, whereas this time security will be the prime concern of only 28% of voters.
This is noteworthy because Netanyahu's current tenure has been much more intense on the security and diplomatic front: Operation Protective Edge, terror attacks in Jerusalem, the collapse of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, tension with the Obama administration, the nuclear talks with Iran, and several incidents on the border with Syria. And yet, the economic situation attracts much more attention.
On the economic front, it's not always possible to find a link between the national situation and that of the common citizen. In recent years, Israel's growth rate was higher than the average in the OECD, and even in the United States. Unemployment has also been low, the deficit relatively more tamed, and available income per household is on the rise.
Nevertheless, for the average Israeli, the figures appear less positive: Salaries have stagnated over the years, the rate of household debt is increasing, buying a house now requires a greater percentage of both savings and future income, and income gaps are widening.
But the results of this survey suggest a perception gap. While 22% of the respondents say their economic situation has worsened over the past two years, 54% believe it is the entire nation's economic situation that is on the decline.
Curiously, a similar trend has been observed in Israeli perceptions of security. Whereas 38% of the survey respondents argued their personal sense of security has deteriorated over the past two years, 49% believe the nation's overall security situation has worsened.