Americans’ view of both Israel and Palestinians worse amid Gaza war, poll finds

Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey indicates ‘underlying pro-Israel sympathies’ unchanged, but sharp drop in pro-Israel views among young adults could mean trouble for Biden

Demonstrators rally during the March on Washington for Gaza near the White House in Washington, January 13, 2024. (AP Photo/ Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators rally during the March on Washington for Gaza near the White House in Washington, January 13, 2024. (AP Photo/ Jose Luis Magana)

Americans’ opinions of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have taken a turn for the worse over the past year, though the balance of opinion remains largely unchanged, according to a Gallup poll published Monday.

“While Americans’ underlying pro-Israeli sympathies have not changed since the war began, they are now divided over which side the US should pressure more to end the conflict,” Gallup concluded, noting that the division could spell political peril for US President Joe Biden.

The poll, conducted between February 1 and February 20 as part of Gallup’s World Affairs survey, found that 58 percent of Americans have a “very favorable” or “mostly favorable” view of Israel, down from 68% last year, while positive opinions of the PA dropped from 26% to 18%.

According to Gallup, Israel’s score, which has usually hovered around 65% on average, was its lowest in over two decades. The PA’s score, which on average is around 19%, was its lowest since 2015.

The highest drop in positive views of Israel was seen among young adults aged 18 to 34, with only 38% of those polled saying they held a favorable view of the Jewish state, down from 64% last year.

By contrast, the percentage of young adults whose view of the PA was favorable dropped by only 4 percentage points, 36% to 32%.

A decline in Israel’s rating was also registered among the other two age groups — “middle aged,” between 35-54, and “older Americans” aged 55 and over — but the fall was less precipitous, at 11% and 3%, respectively.

Illustrative: A participant holds a placard as students gather during a ‘Walkout to Fight Genocide and Free Palestine’ at Bruin Plaza at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) in Los Angeles, California, on October 25, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP)

In a separate question, asking those polled whether they sympathize more with Israel or the PA, 27% answered that they sympathized more with the PA, as opposed to 51% who answered Israel — down from 31% and 54% a year earlier, respectively.

“This suggests that the recent actions by both sides have done little to shift US loyalties, even if overall opinions toward both sides are less positive,” Gallup wrote in a statement, referring to Israel’s ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, sparked by Hamas’s murderous October 7 rampage through southern Israel, when thousands of terrorists killed nearly 1,200 people and took over 250 hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 30,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified. Israel says it has killed some 13,000 Hamas terrorists in battle and another 1,000 gunmen inside Israel during the October 7 attacks.

With half the Strip’s residences destroyed in the fighting, over a million Palestinians have been displaced, and about a quarter of the enclave’s population faces starvation, according to a recent United Nations report.

During the Gaza war, 52% of those polled said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses a “critical threat to US interests,” up sharply from 35% in 2022, the last time Gallup asked the question, and the highest since the question was first asked in 2004, during the Second Intifada, when 58% answered that the conflict was a critical threat.

Illustrative: Attendees at a pro-Israel rally in Washington on November 14, 2023, (Sarah Rosen/Times of Israel)

The poll found that the war had somewhat dampened Americans’ hope for a peaceful end to the conflict, but that “Americans have been much more pessimistic about Middle East peace in the past than they are now”: In 2024, 42% answered they thought peace was possible; in 2006, only 27% thought so.

However, Americans are largely split along party lines on how to end the conflict. Asked whether the US should apply more pressure on Israel or the Palestinians for a resolution, 57% of Democrats answered Israel, as opposed to 24% who thought America should press the Palestinians. Meanwhile, 64% of Republicans said the US should press the Palestinians, with only 14% answering Israel.

Illustrative: a pro-Israel rally in Chicago on January 14, 2024. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Republicans were also largely opposed to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, with only 26% expressing support for the idea, compared with 59% who said they were against it. The idea had 74% support among Democrats, and 55% among independents.

Democrats also expressed slightly more sympathy for the Palestinians than for Israel, by 43% to 35%, while independents and Republicans were more likely to sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians — 44% to 31%, and 80% to 7%, respectively.

Gallup noted that young adults, though a “key constituency of the Democratic Party,” were far more likely than their older counterparts to identify as politically independent.

Illustrative: Naim Kayed of American Muslims for Palestine-Philadelphia holds an anti-Biden flag purchased on site during an anti-Israel demonstration at Montgomery County College, where US President Joe Biden was to speak, January 5, 2024, in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. (Joe Lamberti/AFP)

According to the polling company, “these findings underscore the policy challenges the conflict is creating for the Biden administration.

“Those challenges are made more difficult by President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats tending to side with the Palestinians more than the Israelis and wanting the US to exert more pressure on its traditional ally,” Gallup said in its statement, adding that “to the extent Biden’s efforts to end the conflict are seen as favoring Israel too much, it could cost him politically” among young adults, whose vote is crucial for his reelection in November.

Biden’s potential electoral woes were on display in the Michigan Democratic primary Tuesday, when over 10% of voters in the state, which has a large Arab-American population, cast “uncommitted'” ballots in protest of the president’s support for Israel.

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