US evangelicals vote for Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu as top world leader

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.Reuters

Evangelical Christians rate Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more highly than any other world leader, according to research by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

The survey found that in an open-ended question in which no particular names were suggested, Netanyahu was mentioned more frequently (16 per cent) by evangelical Christians than any other leader, beating Ronald Reagan (11 per cent) and Barack Obama (10 per cent).

The survey also showed a clear divide between Republican and Democrat voters, with only one per cent of Democrat voters naming Netanyahu in the top spot.

A Brookings report on the poll results stated: "While Republicans overall have much more favourable views of Netanyahu than unfavourable ones, Democrats have a more unfavorable view of the Israeli leader by a ratio of about two to one. In general, older Americans admire the Israeli leader far more than the younger ones."

Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition have been criticised for their perceived reluctance to negotiate with Palestinians and Netanyahu's apparent rejection before his re-election of a two-state solution. He later retracted his comments.

The poll also shows that a candidate's policy on Israel is at least somewhat important to them in their decision about whom to vote for, with more than a quarter saying it matters a lot.

The survey shows that Christians are divided on whether Jews today are God's chosen people, with 45 per cent saying that they are and 49 per cent that they are not.

However, there is a sharp divide between Republican and Democrat Christian voters, with 55 per cent of Republicans agreeing against only 33 per cent of Democrats. The figure represents the strong support among white evangelicals for the Republican party.