PRINCETON, NJ — Americans are divided in their views of whether Israel’s actions against the Palestinian group Hamas is “mostly justified” or “mostly unjustified,” but they widely view Hamas’ actions as mostly unjustified. Those results are similar to what Gallup measured 12 years ago during another period of heightened Israeli-Palestinian violence, and they are consistent with Americans’ generally more positive views of the Israelis than of the Palestinians.
The latest escalation of violence in the Middle East occurred after the militant Palestinian group Hamas captured and killed three Israeli students and a Palestinian teen was subsequently murdered in an alleged revenge killing. The tensions erupted into bombings, missile attacks, and armed conflict. The two sides have not agreed to a cease-fire so far despite the international community’s efforts to end the fighting.
Americans do not view the current round of violence as substantially worse than the 2002 fighting, when Israel invaded areas under Palestinian control while Palestinian suicide bombers targeted Israel. A separate question in the new July 22-23 Gallup poll underscores the finding that Americans’ see the current round of fighting as no worse than usual: 45% of Americans say the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “more serious than past conflicts between them,” 43% about as serious as past conflicts, and 3% as “less serious.”
Republicans See Israel’s Actions as Justified; Democrats Disagree
There are not substantial differences across major demographic and attitudinal subgroups as to whether Hamas’ actions are justified; significant majorities of all major subgroups say what Hamas is doing is unjustified. However, there are significant differences in opinions of Israel’s actions by subgroup.
Consistent with Republicans’ more pro-Israel outlook, the majority of Republican identifiers back what Israel is doing. Meanwhile, Democrats take the opposing view, with nearly half saying Israel’s actions are unjustified.
Other subgroup differences may stem from the basic party divisions. Men, older Americans, and whites are more likely than women, younger Americans, and nonwhites to say Israel’s actions are justified. Although Americans with postgraduate education tend to be politically Democratic, they are the most likely education group to endorse Israel’s actions.
A majority of Americans interviewed July 22-23 say they are following news of the conflict very (22%) or somewhat (37%) closely. The more closely Americans are following the news about the Middle East situation, the more likely they are to think Israel’s actions are justified.
There are not large partisan differences in terms of whether the current round of violence is more serious than in the past. However, 65% of those following the story very closely, and 54% following it somewhat closely, say the current conflict is more serious than past Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
Americans are generally pessimistic about the Israelis and Palestinians being able to settle their differences and live in peace, and while the escalated tensions between the two sides have been a major news story the last two weeks, the American public does not view it as any more serious than past conflicts.
Americans continue to exhibit more positivity toward Israel than the Palestinians, but also stop short of saying Israel’s actions in the current situation are justified.
At this point, more than two weeks into the conflict, it is not clear how long the increased violence will continue, as efforts to broker a cease-fire have been unsuccessful.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 22-23, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,016 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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