Poll: Most Democrats prefer presidential candidate who won’t back Israel military aid

56% of respondents say they’re less likely to support candidate sending weaponry to Israel, 40% more likely; survey also finds Biden and Trump tied at 36%

FILE: US President Joe Biden meets with UAW members during a campaign stop, Feb. 1, 2024, in Warren, Michigan. (AP/Evan Vucci)
FILE: US President Joe Biden meets with UAW members during a campaign stop, Feb. 1, 2024, in Warren, Michigan. (AP/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A majority of Democrats prefer a presidential candidate who does not back US military aid for Israel, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll that also showed Democratic US President Joe Biden tied with Donald Trump ahead of the November presidential election.

The three-day poll, which closed on Wednesday, showed 56 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said they were less likely to support a candidate who backs military assistance for Israel, compared to 40% who said they would be more likely to support such a candidate.

The poll results illustrate a potentially critical vulnerability for Biden, who has angered some within his party by supporting Israel in its war against the Palestinian terror group Hamas, ahead of a close November election in which Biden will be loath to lose any support within his party.

Biden and his likely Republican opponent, former US president Donald Trump, were tied with 36% support each in a hypothetical matchup, with the rest of poll respondents saying they were not sure or would vote for someone else or no one at all.

Biden’s early and vocal support of Israel and his refusal to condition military aid on a change in military tactics has sparked outrage in his party.

On Tuesday, more than 100,000 Michigan voters in the Democrats’ presidential primary cast “uncommitted” ballots in a massive protest to Biden’s support for Israel’s military campaign.

A volunteer asks people to vote uncommitted, instead of for US President Joe Biden, outside of McDonald Elementary School in Dearborn during the Michigan presidential primary election on February 27, 2024. (JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

Democrats’ anger has grown as the Gaza death toll climbs, famine looms and much of the territory’s 2.3 million population has become homeless.

The war in Gaza started when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians amid horrific atrocities including multiple cases of gang rape, torture, and mutilation of victims. Some of the 3,000 attackers who burst through the border with the Gaza Strip and into southern Israel abducted 253 hostages who were taken as captives in Gaza.

Israel responded with a military campaign to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages, of whom 132 remain in captivity, a quarter of them believed no longer alive.

A growing minority of Democrats pin the blame for the conflict on Israel’s government, which the United States has long pressured to grant some kind of statehood to a Palestinian territory.

Twenty-two percent of Democrats in the poll blamed the Israeli government for the conflict, compared to 13% in the November poll. Democrats also overwhelmingly said they wanted a presidential candidate who would call for a ceasefire in the conflict.

Some 46% of Democrats in the Reuters/Ipsos poll said they blamed Hamas, down from 54% in a November poll.

Republican presidential candidate former US president Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs after speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 24, 2024. (Alex Brandon/AP)

While Biden has tried to balance his support for Israel with calls for its military to do more to avoid civilian casualties, Trump has voiced full-throated support for the US ally, a position that appeared in line with the views of many Republicans.

Some 62% of Republicans in the poll said they preferred a presidential candidate that favors supplying Israel with military aid, while 34% said that stance was a turnoff.

Relative to Biden, Trump has staked out a vastly different position on the America’s role in the NATO alliance, telling supporters in February that he once told the leader of a NATO ally that he would encourage Russia to attack the country if it were not meeting its financial obligations in the alliance.

In the new Reuters/Ipsos poll, 55% of Republicans said they agreed with a statement that the United States must support democratic countries when they are attacked. Forty percent disagreed.

Among Democrats, 75% agreed and 23% disagreed.

The nationwide poll, which was conducted online, surveyed 1,185 US adults and had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.

Thousands of people march down Washington Boulevard in downtown Detroit, Michigan to call for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, October 28, 2023. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP)

According to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry, at least 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war started. The figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed some 12,000 Hamas operatives since the start of the war, in addition to around 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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