With nearly 4,400 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19, 6 dead and nearly 170 attached to respirators in hospitals (at press time), the country is in almost total quarantine with no date for a return to normal. The Israeli Democracy Institute’s new opinion poll of a representative sample of the public shows that 76% are worried about being infected with the virus and 73.5% are very worried about their personal financial situation. Nearly a million Israelis are unemployed, most of them on unpaid leave.
Only 40% are satisfied with the role of Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists will continue in his ministerial position after a new emergency unity government is established.
The latest monthly data, from the institute’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, show that 76% of the public fear they or their households will be infected by the new coronavirus, compared to only 34% in February.
While a large majority of the general public (73.5%) fears its economic future. this concern is even higher in the Israeli Arab public (79%)..
Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, an economist brought to the ministry by Litzman from the Treasury’s budget division a few years ago and the first ministry director-general who is not a physician, scores the highest during the current crisis: 68% of Israelis rate his functioning as good, much higher than the public view of Litzman. Bar Siman Tov received a higher rating even than Prime Minister Netanyahu (60%), who has appeared almost every evening on TV, announcing stricter quarantine measures.
Fully 83% of the Israeli public believe that the functioning of hospitals is very good or quite good; 58.5% are satisfied with the functioning of the media, while only 39% think so of the Finance Ministry.
In addition, 59% of Israelis trust the Shin Bet (Israel’s General Security Service or GSS) and government officials to use data from cellular phones to keep track of those who are infected or in isolation so as to prevent contagion in the current crisis. Among the Arabs, only 38% believe it will, compared to 63% of the Jews. Segmenting the Jewish sample by affiliation to a political camp reveals that a majority on the right and center relies on the GSS and government officials in this regard (68% and 60%, respectively) versus a minority (45.5%) of the left.
Despite the crisis, most respondents (60%) chose to report that their mood is very good or quite good these days compared to 37% who said their mood quite bad or very bad. However, the general public (56%) is quite or very pessimistic about the future of Israeli democracy in the foreseeable future and slightly more (52%) believe that the democratic rule in Israel is currently in serious danger. In contrast, just over a third (36%) are pretty or very pessimistic about the future of Israel’s national security.
On a scale of one to 10, the average score of solidarity in Israeli society today in the eyes of the Israeli public is 6.67.
The majority of the public (53%) believe that the restrictions that the Israeli government has set in relation to public conduct prevent infection of are appropriate; 36% think the restrictions are too stringent. Only a tiny minority think the restrictions are too severe (7%).
In the survey, conducted online and over the phone between March 24 and March 26, 611 men and women were interviewed in the Hebrew language and 149 in the Arabic language, representing a representative national sample of the total adult population in Israel aged 18 and over.