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Pew survey finds younger Americans now favor Palestinians as much as Israelis

Poll on US attitudes shows Americans not paying attention to anti-Israel BDS movement, opinions divided on best solution to conflict

Pro-Israel demonstrators gather outside the Federal Building during a rally in support of Israel in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Jae C. Hong)
Pro-Israel demonstrators gather outside the Federal Building during a rally in support of Israel in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

A new survey on US attitudes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict found that younger Americans feel as positive if not more so toward Palestinians as they do toward Israelis, and that American adults are not paying attention to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The findings are part of an expansive new survey by the Pew Research Center published on Thursday that found US public opinion has shifted to be more positive toward both sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The survey was conducted March 7-13 among 10,441 US adults, with the stated goal of better understanding Americans’ views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The margin of error for the full sample was 1.5 percentage points.

Overall, Americans have historically expressed more positivity toward Israelis than toward Palestinians and rate the Israeli government more favorably than the Palestinian one.

Since 2019, when Pew conducted a similar survey, Americans’ favorable impressions of Israelis rose from 64% to 67%, and of Palestinians from 46% to 52%.

These gaps were greater among older Americans than among younger ones, however. US adults under the age of 30 said they view the Palestinian people as warmly (61% very or somewhat favorable) as the Israeli people (56%).

Favorables also rose for the peoples’ governments, although they were not as popular: Israel’s government was viewed favorably by 48% of Americans as opposed to 41% in 2019. Notably, in the interim, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had famously tense relations with Democrats, was ousted as prime minister.

The Palestinian government’s favorability rose from 21% to 28% and its unfavorable ratings dropped from 71% to 63%.

The questions, Pew said, did not give particulars on Palestinian government, which has two branches: The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Older Americans were the likelier they were to be favorable to Israeli people: 63% of those aged 18-25 viewed Israelis favorably, while 77% of those 65 and older did.

Republicans also were likelier to view Israelis favorably: 78% said they had positive views of the Israeli people, while 37% said they had positive views of Palestinians. Among Democrats, 60% said they viewed Israelis favorably and 64% said they viewed Palestinians favorably.

Three out of ten Americans also believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people; that breaks down to 46% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats.

The survey found that the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has not gained much traction among the American public.

Protesters walk after a rally that was held in solidarity with Palestinians, May 12, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Joshua Housing)

A whopping 84% of adults surveyed said they have heard “not much” or “nothing at all” about the movement, which seeks to pressure Israel into changing its policy towards the Palestinians by promoting boycotts and economic sanctions.

Only 5% of the surveyed adults — who were of diverse religious backgrounds — knew “some” about it, and only 2% strongly support it.

Jewish American organizations are at odds over how best and even whether to combat the movement, often referred to as BDS, and Arab American and Palestinian American organizations are generally in favor of the movement. That has led to fraught political clashes — but Americans by and large don’t seem to notice.

The survey also asked about views on how to best solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and only 35% favor a two-state solution, the outcome long favored by the US and many other world power governments. The numbers changed little even among partisans, with 34% of Republicans and 36% of Democrats favoring the outcome.

As far as an alternative: 37% say they don’t know the best solution, while 27% favor a one-state solution, either “governed jointly by Israelis and Palestinians” (16%) or “with an Israeli government” (10%). Just 2% said the best outcome would be one country “with a Palestinian government.”

White evangelical Protestants were the most likely than members of any other major Christian tradition to say the best outcome would be a single state with an Israeli government; 28% said this, compared with 6% each of Catholics, White non-evangelical Protestants and Black Protestants.

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