21% of US Muslims say October 7 assault was acceptable

Poll: Most Americans say Israel’s war is valid, but only 38% approve of conduct

Pew survey shows 34% in US disapprove of IDF handling of war; 73% say Hamas’s October 7 attack was unacceptable; among Jews, 89% back Israel’s resort to war, 62% support handling

Troops of the Bislamach Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published March 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Bislamach Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published March 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The majority of Americans believe that Israel has valid reasons for fighting Hamas, but only four in ten US adults say Israel’s prosecution of the war has been acceptable, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

The survey, which polled more than 12,500 Americans in February with a 1.5 percent margin of error, also found that only 22% of respondents said Hamas’s reasons for fighting Israel are valid, and just 5% said Hamas’s October 7 assault on southern Israel was acceptable.

Overall, 58% of those polled said Israel’s reasons for its war on Hamas were acceptable, while 15% said they were not and 26% said they did not know. By contrast, 49% of respondents said Hamas’s fight against Israel was not valid, 22% said it was valid and 28% said they did not know.

When it came to the conduct of the ongoing war, however, 38% said Israeli forces were acting either somewhat or completely acceptably, while 34% said they were not, and 26% said they didn’t know. On the topic of Hamas’s conduct, 66% termed the October 7 attack as completely unacceptable, 7% said they were somewhat unacceptable, while 5% said they were acceptable and 21% said they weren’t sure.

Among American Jews, 89% said Israel’s reasons for fighting were valid compared to 7% who said they were invalid and 4% who were unsure. Among American Muslims, just 18% said Israel had valid reasons, compared to 54% who said it did not and 26% who were unsure.

According to the study, 77% of US Jews said Hamas’s reasons for fighting were not valid, while 16% said they were and 6% were unsure; 49% of American Muslims said Hamas’s motivations were valid, 22% said they were invalid and 28% were not sure.

Destruction caused by Hamas terrorists on October 7 seen in Kibbutz Beeri on December 19, 2023. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Asked about the conduct of the war, 62% of US Jews said Israel was acting acceptably, while just 5% of Muslim Americans agreed. The survey also showed that 93% of US Jews viewed Hamas’s October 7 onslaught as unacceptable, while only 49% of US Muslims felt the same way, and 21% of them said it was either somewhat or completely acceptable.

On October 7, thousands of Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel, killing close to 1,200 people and taking another 253 hostage, about half of whom remain in Gaza. In the ensuing war, more than 31,800 Palestinians have been killed, according to unverified figures from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry that include both civilians and combatants; 251 Israeli soldiers have been killed fighting in the Strip.

Poll respondents under 30 years old were significantly more critical of how Israel is fighting than their older peers, with 46% describing its conduct as unacceptable, including 32% who called it completely unacceptable, compared to just 21% who said it was acceptable. Among those younger respondents, just 38% said Israel had valid reasons for fighting and 34% said Hamas did.

Around 31% of respondents said they sympathized entirely or mostly with the Israeli people, while 16% said they sympathized entirely or mostly with the Palestinian people, 26% said they sympathized with both sides equally and 18% were unsure.

Asked their views on Hamas, just 8% of Americans expressed a favorable view, compared to 84% who had an unfavorable opinion; 23% of respondents had a favorable view of the Palestinian Authority.

Half of all respondents said they favored the US providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, while just 19% opposed it. Thirty-six percent supported the US providing Israel with military aid, while 34% said they oppose it.

A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip passes through the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Only 20% of those polled want the US to play a major role in diplomatically resolving the conflict, with another 35% supporting a minor role.

Those identifying as Democrats were divided over whether US President Joe Biden is tilting too far toward Israel’s position, with 34% saying he was, compared to 29% who said he’s striking the right balance and 3% who said he’s favoring the Palestinian position too much. Among Republicans, 11% said Biden was favoring Israel too much, 29% said he had the right balance and 34% said he was favoring the Palestinians too much.

A plurality of Americans (40%) say the best outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a two-state solution; 46% of Jewish Americans and 41% of Muslim Americans agree. Thirty-three percent of Republicans said they support a two-state solution, compared to 38% of Democrats. Support for a single state governed by Israel is up from 18% to 26% among Republicans.

Among those polled, 41% said they hold a favorable view of the current Israeli government, down from 47% in 2022 (when the Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government was still in power). The number who expressed “very unfavorable views” increased in that same period from 12% to 21%. Around 54% of US Jews said they had a favorable view of the Israeli government, compared to 71% of white evangelical Protestants and just 10% of American Muslims.

A poll in January of Israeli voters by the Kan public broadcaster showed that 64% expressed disapproval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war.

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