A majority of Israelis feel a strong attachment to the state, but this still doesn't stop many of them from fantasizing about living elsewhere mostly for financial reasons, a new survey released for publication on Sunday reveals.
The annual Social Strength Index, which examines the passing year in comparison to the last decade, shows that 59 per cent of Israelis say they are very proud to be Israeli, and 58% believe that there is no better place in the world for Israelis to live. 59% said they would never leave Israel.
The survey was unveiled at the Sderot Conference for Society on Sunday. The index demonstrates that socially, Israel is currently at its lowest point in the last decade.
The following are the highlights of the 2012 study (among respondents 18 years of age or older)
The annual Social Strength Index, now in its tenth year, indicates a general deterioration in Israel's social cohesion. This deterioration is reflected in prominent negative trends among the various aspects of Israel's social strength, including the sense of solidarity and belonging, personal economic strength, access to social rights, faith in the public institutions, job security and corruption. In some of those areas, the index found the lowest values of the last decade.
There are a number of varied explanations for this, including for example the public dismay over the government's handling of last summer's social protest movement (a wave of protests that swept the nation seeking economic security for the middle class, among other things), or perhaps the government's economic policies, or the global economic crisis, or even the emergence of several corruption scandals among the top ruling echelon.
Sense of solidarity and belonging
1. This year's survey results were lower than the same survey conducted in 2011 on every question. Many of the questions reverted back to the same level they were in 2008, with the noteworthy exception of the "state that promises a better future to your children" question, which reverted to the even lower values of 2006-2007.
2. The average sense of solidarity and belonging among respondents was medium to medium plus in the various areas, according to the following ranking (in descending order)
a. The strongest sense among respondents is that of pride in the country, with a score of 3.74 — most of the respondents said they were very proud of their country (59%).
b. The sense that the "country is protecting you and your family" received an average score of 3.35, and the sense that the country "upholds your dignity" received an average score of 3.23 — approximately half of all respondents (46% and 43% respectively) felt both these things to a strong degree.
c. The weakest sense was that "the country promises a better future for your children" with an average score of 2.84, with only a quarter (26%) of respondents strongly feeling that the statement is accurate.
3. Most respondents (54%) said that even if they had the financial means, there is low to very low probability that they would leave Israel with their families and relocate to another country. This percentage, however, is lower than the percentage of responders who said the same in previous surveys. In 2011 it was 69%, in 2010 it was 75%, and in 2008 it was 73%. In fact, this year's survey had the lowest result on this question since 2006.
4. The State of Israel is perceived by most respondents (58%) as the best possible country for Israelis to live in among all the countries of the world. This finding is significantly lower than previous surveys. There is a clear downward trend in this question since 2008, when 79% of responders thought Israel was the best country for Israelis, through the 2009 findings with 68%, 2010 with 69%, and 2011 with 69%. This year's result was the lowest in the last seven years.
5. The results on these two questions — the percentage of Israelis who say they would not leave the country if they could afford to and the percentage of respondents who feel that Israel is the best country for Israelis — indicates that though a majority of Israelis feel a strong connection to their country, this feeling is steadily decreasing among the public as the 2012 results figure lower than any previous survey since 2006.
6. The issues respondents listed as most disturbing, diminishing their pride in their country, were corruption among the highest government echelons, violence in Israeli society, poverty and the social gap between the country's richest and poorest. These factors also scored high in previous surveys as factors that diminish pride, in various orders.
7. In this year's survey, there was a sharp incline in comparison to last year's survey in regard to the perception of violence as a dominant pride-diminishing factor. The issue of violence gained 16% in this year's survey over last year's with 82% of responders naming it as a top factor. Much like previous surveys, this year the least dominant factor was the treatment of Israeli Arabs and the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
8. With a 10% increase from last year, 82% of respondents view government corruption as an issue that greatly diminishes their pride in the country. This issue retained its highest ranking as the thing that most prevents Israelis from feeling proud of Israel.
9. The issue of poverty and social gaps occupied the third spot among the factors that most disturb Israelis and prevent them from feeling pride in Israel. With a 6% increase from last year's survey, 77% of responders view poverty as a dominant factor. Another 76% of responders (a sharp 22% increase from last year's results) view the loss of job security as a factor that prevents them from feeling pride in Israel.
10. In fifth place, with 66% of responders, the issue of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was also named as a disturbing factor. The only factor to see a decline from last year's survey was the issue of the treatment of Israeli Arabs, which only 35% of responders named as a factor, a 5% drop from last year's results.
If taken together with the 2011 results, this year's survey indicates a deterioration in the public's view of the family financial status. A clear drop can be seen in the number of respondents who believe that their family's income enables them to live in an acceptable, or alternately in a good manner. The survey showed a correlating increase in the number of respondents who feel that their family's income enables them to "barely survive."
In comparison with last year's survey, there has been an increase in the number of respondents who are worried by every one of the five factors having to do with the family financial status — being able to financially support children in the future; ability to save money; financial dependence on others; family income; growing old with dignity. The scores each factor received as relating to the extent of its impact on the family's financial concerns also went up since last year. These findings indicate that today the public feels a higher level of financial instability than last year.
According to the survey, financial concerns have the most impact on life in Israel, with 56% of respondents naming financial concerns as an influential factor in their lives. For the sake of comparison, only 16% of responders named Israel's security as an influential factor.
The ranking of the most influential factors that impact Israeli life has not changed since 2011, with the financial issue ranking highest, followed by security concerns. But the percentage of the responders who named financial concerns as having the most impact increased dramatically from 2011 — a 17% increase from 39% in 2011 to 56% in 2012. Meanwhile, a similarly dramatic drop could be seen in the percentage of respondents who named security concerns as an influential factor — a 12% drop from 28% in 2011 to 16% in 2012. The gap between those who named financial concerns and those who named security concerns also grew dramatically, more than three-fold.
Respondents were asked which factors they felt were most important in determining a person's financial status. Twenty four percent said being born to the right family was the most important factor, followed by having the right connections with 17% of responders and another 17% naming God as the most important factor, followed by hard work with 13%. The factors seen as the least important in determining a person's financial status are country of origin (1%) and location of residence (2%).
The public institutions that enjoy the most public trust are the IDF and the defense establishment, with an average score of 3.33 (more than 50% of respondents said they trust the IDF and the defense establishment ) and the public health system, with an average score of 3.04 (35% of respondents said they trust the health system).
The public institutions with the least public faith are the respondent's political party (average score of 1.92 with only 7% saying they have faith in their party); the media (average score of 2.19 with only 10% saying they have faith in the media); the Histadrut labor federation (average score of 2.21 with only 7% saying they trust the Histadrut); and the National Insurance Institution (average score of 2.26 with only 10% saying they trust the NII).
An overwhelming majority of responders (78%) said they felt that the level of corruption in Israel's government today is high, or very high. Fourteen percent said the corruption level is fair and only 5% feel that the corruption level is low, or very low.
The institutions seen by respondents as the most properly managed are the IDF and the defense establishment; the public health system; and the legal system. These institutions are seen as moderately well-run. Approximately half of the respondents feel that the IDF is run well to very well, while only a third of respondents feel that the public health system and the legal system are properly managed.
On the other hand, the institutions seen as the most corrupt are the political parties; the Knesset; government ministries; and local authorities. The vast majority of respondents (77%) said that the political parties are corrupt, and about half of the respondents said that the Knesset (59%), the government ministries (55%) and the local authorities (49%) were corrupt.
The two events seen as the most corrupt were the various corruption cases in which former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was named as a suspect (bribery, the Holyland construction project in Jerusalem, Rishontours double billing scandal) and the rape conviction of former President Moshe Katsav.