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Americans strongly support Israel, but there are generational and racial divides

Israeli tanks are stationed near the border with Lebanon on Wednesday. A plurality of Americans say Israel's response to a deadly attack by Hamas has been about right.
Ariel Schalit
Israeli tanks are stationed near the border with Lebanon on Wednesday. A plurality of Americans say Israel's response to a deadly attack by Hamas has been about right.

Two-thirds of Americans say the United States should publicly support Israel in the war between Israel and Hamas, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, but there are wide generational and racial divides on the question.

At this point, more Americans, but not a majority, think Israel's response has been appropriate, though an overwhelming number of respondents are worried the war will spill over into a broader regional conflict.

Seven in 10 Americans said they are paying close attention to the war. And, even though most agree that the U.S. should publicly support Israel, President Biden — who has voiced strong public support for the Jewish nation — is not benefiting politically.

The survey of 1,313 adults was conducted Wednesday and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points, meaning results could be about 4 points lower or higher. Respondents were reached by telephone using live interviewers, by text or online.

Support for Israel

Overall, 65% said the U.S. should support Israel publicly. That was true of big majorities of both parties — 77% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats.

Notably, independents were less likely to believe this — 54% thought the U.S. should publicly support Israel, but a third said the U.S. shouldn't say or do anything.

But there are huge age and racial gaps — 78% of those 45 and older think the U.S. should take a publicly pro-Israel stance, but just 48% of those under 45 said so.


This is particularly true of the youngest Americans eligible to vote — just 48% of Gen Z/millennials said the U.S. should publicly voice support, as compared to 63% of Gen X, 83% of baby boomers and 86% of the Silent/Greatest generation.

Along racial lines, just 51% of nonwhites said the U.S. should take such a public stance supporting Israel, while 72% of whites thought it should.

Worries the war could spread

Eight in 10 said they are concerned that the Israel-Hamas war will lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East.

Notably there was a significant gender gap here. Women were 16 points more likely to worry that the conflict would spread (87%) compared to men (71%).

Israel's response so far

At this point, more Americans say Israel's response has been about right — 44% said so.

About a quarter said, though, that it's been too much and roughly another quarter said it's been too little.

Democratic men were the most likely to say that Israel's response has been too much (44%), followed by those who live in big cities (41%), those under 45 (37%) and Biden supporters (37%).

On the other hand, white men without college degrees (45%), Republican men (44%), white evangelical Christians (40%) and Donald Trump supporters (39%) were the most likely to say it's been too little.

Slim majority say U.S. support for Israel has made the region safer

By a 53%-41% margin, respondents said they believe U.S. support for Israel makes the Middle East safer.

But there are some notable deviations, particularly among younger Americans. Gen Z/millennials were the only group tested in which a majority (54%) said the U.S.'s support for Israel makes the region more dangerous.

Here again, there was a racial divide. By a 49%-to-42% margin, nonwhites said U.S. support for Israel makes the region more dangerous. Whites were 17 points more likely compared to nonwhites to say U.S. support for Israel made the region safer.

It is notable, however, that 36% of Republicans also said they believe the country's support for Israel makes the Middle East more dangerous. That's a significant slice, considering the sharper divides by party on many other issues.

Biden not benefiting politically

There's certainly no rally-'round-the-flag effect for Biden at this point.

Americans so far aren't impressed with how the president has handled himself during this war — despite his strong show of public support for Israel coming as two-thirds report saying they want a strong show of public U.S. support.

Biden has arguably taken a stronger pro-Israel stance than nearly any other U.S. president, yet 52% said they disapprove of Biden's handling of this conflict.

That seems to reflect just how sharp the U.S. political divide is at this moment, as that disapproval number is identical to Biden's overall job approval rating.

Self-declared Democrats are largely in Biden's corner — 86% approve of the job he's doing as president. But he drops 9 points with his party when it comes to his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

He continues to struggle with independents (32% approve of his job performance overall) and those under 45 (41%).

Even among groups that have supported him in the past, he lags in approval. Only 45% of nonwhites approve of the job he's doing, 21 points below where he was with the group in the Marist poll shortly after he was elected to office.

All three are key groups Biden needs in his corner if he hopes to be reelected.

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.