KAS Poll on Citizenship, Identity and Political Participatio...

KAS Poll on Citizenship, Identity and Political Participation: Measuring the Attitudes of the Arab Citizens in Israel

February 18, 2018

Today, the priorities of Arab citizens are centered on domestic issues such as violence within Arab communities, racism against Arab citizens in the Jewish community, and issues related to economy and employment - and less so on "external" issues" such as the peace process or Palestinian territories. This is the primary conclusion of a comprehensive opinion poll conducted by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University among Arabs in Israel during the summer of 2017. 

The poll focused on the civic life of Arabs in Israel and included questions regarding collective identity, daily life, visions of shared society in Israel, political participation, and others. Survey participants included focus groups of traditional, religious, and secular Arab women and men from different areas in Israel and a representative sampling of close to 900 Arab citizens ages 18 and up. 

In the past decade, several polls and surveys have aimed to examine similar issues regarding Arab citizens' approach to the State of Israel and Jewish-Arab relations. Notable examples are the Index of Arab-Jewish relations, which is conducted periodically by Prof. Sammy Smooha, and Jews and Arabs: A Conditional Partnership published by the Israel Democracy Institute in 2017. While these surveys span both the Arab and Jewish communities in Israel, the KAS poll included solely Arab participants and focused on daily, civic life as well as issues of national identity. 

The poll is divided into eleven categories, ranging from issues such as "Citizenship and Daily Life" to "The Question of Equality," "Political Participation," and "Defining Personal Identity." Many of the findings revealed considerable variance among respondents, and factors such as age, religion, and education proved to be major influences on the positions of Arab citizens toward life in Israel. 

Findings indicate that most respondents (59.5%) have a positive opinion of Israeli citizenship, 39.4% a very positive opinion, and that 62.6% feel "Israel is ultimately a positive place to live." However, about 23% had a very negative view of Israeli citizenship, and 21% a negative view of living conditions in the State-with the youngest responders (18-22) presenting the most critical views. 

In terms of affiliation with the State of Israel, approximately 45% felt affiliated while roughly 35% felt only a "small measure" of belonging to the State-with a direct correlation between the respondents' level of education and feelings on the issue:  the higher the level of education, the greater the sense of affiliation with the State. Education played a role in respondents' sense of "personal stability" and "freedom" as well-over half of the respondents with only an elementary education felt a low sense of personal freedom and stability.

The centrality of domestic concerns among Arabs in Israel is a considerable change compared to the 1990s, during which Arab citizens' focused on Israel's peace process with the Palestinians and saw this issue as directly connected to the advancement of their own civic equality. Based on the poll's findings, the current agenda of Arab citizens was summed up as "equality and security (personal, occupational) now, peace later." 

The poll was published in December 2017 at the 12th issue of Bayan-a quarterly on contemporary Arab affairs published by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish Arab Cooperation at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. 

View the complete findings report here. 

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