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  • The Jerusalem Post

Israelis more satisfied with local than national authorities, poll finds

By Eliav Breuer

Tachlith Institute's poll shows Israelis favor local authorities over national institutions, especially during the war, signaling potential reforms.

Jerusalem Post | 07.03.2024

Israelis are significantly more satisfied with their local authorities than with national institutions of government – both in general and specifically during the war – according to a new poll by the Tachlith Institute for Israeli Policy.

The poll was conducted following nationwide municipal elections on February 27, and ahead of the second round of voting that will take place on Sunday. The poll was published exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.

The institute said that “the day after the war, Israel will face a series of fate-shaping questions regarding the future of the governmental system and the constitutional infrastructure that underpins it. After a year of direct struggle to regulate the relationship between central government authorities, and in light of a series of failures found in the functioning of public systems over the last few months, the question regarding the status of the local government is found throughout the public discourse “The governmental system in Israel is centralized when compared to almost every other country in the democratic world. This means that almost every public dispute necessitates a national decision, which sharpens tensions and disputes between sections of the public. COVID-19 and Oct. 7 both proved the relative advantages of local governance in providing immediate and adapted responses to the local population,” the institute said.

Data collected through the poll

The poll’s participants gave a satisfaction mark of 3.4 on a scale of 1-5 towards their local authority during the war, compared to just 2.3 to the government and 2.2 to the Knesset. In addition, satisfaction with local authorities was slightly higher in the war compared to general satisfaction, whereas the government and Knesset received slightly lower marks for satisfaction during the war, when compared to in general.

Split along party lines, voters for the Religious Zionist Party on the national level were most satisfied with their local authorities, giving them a mark of 4.1. Likud voters also gave local authorities a relatively high satisfaction mark of 3, while Meretz voters were the least satisfied with their local authorities, giving them a mark of just 2.8.

Participants also attributed greater moral behavior to local authorities than to the national government. On a 1-5 scale, they gave local authorities a mark just above three on moral behavior, compared to 2.58 for the Knesset and 2.56 for the government.

Asked on a scale of 1-5 whether they wanted their local government to manage broader areas of their life in several fields, respondents were most keen on education, with a mark nearing 4. Respondents also expressed a relatively high desire for local authorities to receive broader responsibility in providing welfare services and personal safety (both with a mark around 3.8). Respondents gave a mark of 3.6 to the same proposition regarding issues of religion in the public sphere.

Asked what most important quality is required of a local authority leader, most respondents (26%) prioritized a candidate who was an “achiever and will know how to improve the managing of the local authority and conducting projects.” In second place (16%), was that the candidate that acted for the good of all of the residents in the local authority, and third (14%) was that the candidate “has a similar worldview to my own on social and religious issues.”

Interestingly, the ultra-Orthodox (haredi), Meretz, and Labor voters placed the candidate’s worldview on social and religious issues as their top priority.

Additional findings

The poll also asked about voters’ familiarity with the candidates. It found that the only constituencies with 30% or above were voters for the haredi and Arab parties: 38% of Shas voters and 33% of United Torah Judaism voters said that they had a personal acquaintance with the mayor or with a city council member, and 36% of Ra’am voters and 30% of Hadash-Ta’al voters said the same. Labor voters had the lowest mark, with just 7% saying they had such an acquaintance.

The poll also found a split between Right- and Left-wing voters over whether they wanted their mayors involved in political discourse at the national level. All of the right-wing parties, including the haredi ones, opposed this because it could “harm the relationship between the mayor and the government,” while the Left-wing and Arab parties supported their mayors’ involvement in national political discourse to “influence national processes.”

Comments by Gal Golan

The institute’s head of public policy, Gal Gonen, said that “the events of October 7 and the difficulty in providing a governmental response to the plight of the residents has once again raised the need for a renewed examination of the status and extent of the powers of the local government in Israel.

It is highly doubtful whether the existing situation, which is exceptional in the world, in which the local government is weakened and subordinated almost completely to the central government, provides an adequate response to the citizen’s needs.”

According to Golan, “the survey reflects the high degree of trust the public places for local authorities, in comparison to other governmental authorities, and the desire for more areas of life to have local involvement in the management and provision of public services.

“We are defining an outline for a much-needed reform that will provide an in-depth and effective response to the challenges of the local government and the fulfillment of the social goals associated with it,” Golan said. “The reform will revolve around three axes: an axis of infrastructure and constitutional regulation – how the local government transforms from an executive contractor to a governing body operating under government supervision; an axis of powers that re-characterizes the provision of public services that should be provided by the local government; and finally, an axis of participation that allows citizens to make their voices heard and exercise their rights,” Golan concluded.

Founded by lawyer Yaniv Cohen, the Tachlit Institute defines itself as “a policy-oriented research organization working to strengthen Israel’s democracy and its institutions and to revitalize the social contract between all parts of Israeli society.”

The poll was carried out using iPanel and included 600 respondents. The sampling error was 3.4%.


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