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Two new surveys conducted last week point toward a significant racial and generational divide in how Americans view the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Most Americans (71 percent) believe Israel’s military response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel is “justified,” according to a CNN poll conducted from October 12-13.

While a strong majority of whites and all Americans aged 65 and above see the Israeli response as “fully justified,” over 40 percent of Gen Z Americans and people of color view Israel’s response with uncertainty or as “unjustified.”

Most young Americans also express equal levels of sympathy for Israelis and Palestinians.

A long, bloody Israeli ground offensive in Gaza would likely deepen young and urban voters’ opposition to Israel’s conduct of the war — with a potential impact on the 2024 elections.

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Boomers and Zoomers, Whites and People of Color Don’t See Israel-Palestine the Same Way

When it comes to age, Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States are seniors, 81 percent of whom see Israel’s response as “fully justified,” compared to just 27 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34.

The divide in terms of race is less stark, but there are significant differences when you go deeper into the numbers.

  • 78 percent of whites are Israel view the Israeli response as fully or partially justified, compared to 58 percent of people of color.
  • Whites are far more certain of the legitimacy of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. Sixty-two percent of whites say Israel’s military response is “fully justified” versus just 31 percent of people of color.

Over 40 percent of people of color and all Gen Z Americans say Israel’s military response is either not justified at all or they’re not sure.

A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll also highlights a substantial racial and generational divide in how Americans view the conflict.

Non-whites are twice as likely as whites to see Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks as excessive.

  • Thirty-eight percent of non-whites see Israel’s response to the attack by Hamas as “too much” compared to 20 percent of whites. The divide is nearly identical when comparing Americans of all races under the age of 45 to those 45 and older.
  • A majority (54 percent) of those under 45 believe that U.S. backing for Israel makes the Middle East more dangerous. A majority of those 45 and older hold the opposite view.

It’s worth noting that these two polls were conducted in the initial days after the Hamas attack, well before U.S. television networks began meaningful coverage of Gaza and prior to Israel’s full-scale bombardment of the area.

They affirm previous polling that points toward substantial negative views of Israel among young Americans.

  • A Pew Research Center survey last year found that a majority of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 view Israel unfavorably.

The Israeli-Palestinian Empathy Gap Closes Among Younger Americans

Nearly all Americans (96 percent) feel sympathy for Israelis and most feel some sympathy for the Palestinians (87 percent), according to the CNN poll. But the intensity of that sympathy differs based on race and age.

  • Whites and older Americans of all races express a greater intensity of sympathy for Israelis than for Palestinians.
  • But a majority of people of color and Zoomers of all races say they have “a lot” of sympathy for Israelis and Palestinians.

There’s also a partisan divide that likely overlaps with race and age.

  • Twenty-three percent of Republicans conveyed zero sympathy for the Palestinians, compared to just four percent of Democrats.
  • According to a Gallup survey conducted earlier this year, nearly a majority of Democrats said they sympathized with the Palestinians more than with the Israelis.

Israel’s Strongest Supporters: White Evangelicals, Seniors, Small-Town Voters

Israel’s most vigorous supporters, according to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, are white evangelicals, older Americans, and residents of small towns.

  • Over 80 percent of Baby Boomers and Silent/Greatest Generation members believe the U.S. should back Israel, compared to just 48 percent of Zoomers and Millennials.
  • Roughly 80 percent of white evangelicals and small-town residents also believe the U.S. should publicly support Israel, compared to 51 percent of non-whites and 59 of big-city residents.

Republican men as well as white evangelicals and whites without a college degree stand out in their belief that the Israeli military response to the Hamas attacks has been “too little.”

  • 44 percent of Republican men view the Israeli military response as “too little,” while 44 percent of Democrat men see it as “too much.”
  • Only 7 percent of white evangelicals view the Israeli military response as excessive, while 40 percent of them say not enough military force has been used.

White evangelicals have long held militaristic views on the Middle East as it fits into their millenarian worldview. Nearly 90 percent of white evangelicals supported President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, compared to just 44 percent of black Americans of all religious orientations.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.

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