As open war rages in the Middle East following the Palestinian organization Hamas' recent attack on Israel, American sympathies are strongly on Israel's side — and getting stronger.
Nearly half (48%) of U.S. adult citizens say they are more sympathetic toward the Israelis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared to just 10% who are more sympathetic toward the Palestinians. Almost a quarter (23%) sympathize with both sides.
These findings come from the latest Economist/YouGov survey of U.S. adult citizens, conducted October 14 - 17, 2023.
This sympathy for Israel has been trending upward. The 48% who sympathize with Israel is higher than the 42% who said the same in last week's poll, in the immediate aftermath of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. It's also significantly above the 31% who backed Israel in March 2023.
Support for the Palestinians hasn't fallen in this period. The 10% who sympathize more with the Palestinians now is similar to the 9% who felt that last week and the 13% who backed the Palestinians in March.
Instead, the increased support for Israel is driven by people coming off the fence about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since March, the share who sympathize about equally with both sides has fallen from 27% to 23%, and the share who aren't sure which side they back has dropped from 30% to 19%.
This sympathy for Israel holds across the political spectrum. While sympathy for Israel in the broader Middle East conflict is highest among Republicans, Democrats and Independents also are more likely to sympathize with Israelis than with Palestinians. Similarly, all three political groups are more sympathetic to Israel this week than they were last week and in March.
Americans have become more likely to think of Israel as a friend or an ally, and to think of Hamas as an "immediate and serious threat" to the U.S. The share of Americans who say Israel is either a friend or an ally is up 10 percentage points since July, to 74%. That compares to 9% who say Israel is unfriendly to the U.S. or an enemy.
This rise in friendly views to Israel is driven by Democrats. Three-quarters of Democrats (75%) now see Israel as a friend or an ally, up 17 percentage points from 57% in the last Economist/YouGov measurement in July. Republicans and Independents are both about 6 percentage points more likely to see Israel as a friend or ally than they were in July. (Republicans have the most positive view of the Israel-U.S. relationship, with 81% calling Israel a friend or an ally.)
A majority of Americans now see Hamas as a serious threat to the U.S., with nearly as many today describing Hamas as an immediate or somewhat serious threat (57%) as think that about al Qaeda (64%). In May 2015, 47% said Hamas was at least a somewhat serious threat to the U.S., compared to 74% who said the same about al Qaeda.
Division over Biden's role as Americans back Israeli aid
What actions should the U.S. take about the Israel-Hamas conflict? By 70% to 14%, Americans strongly or somewhat support sending humanitarian aid to Israel, and by 49% to 21%, they think sending Israel financial aid is a good idea.
But the country is divided when it comes to sending humanitarian aid to Palestine: 39% support it and 38% oppose it. However, Americans stop short of supporting the imposition of economic sanctions on the Palestinian people: More say that's a bad idea than a good one. As for sending weapons to Israel, 41% say it's a good idea; 29% say it's a bad one.
President Joe Biden, who traveled to Israel on Wednesday, gets mixed reviews on his handling of the crisis so far: 37% strongly or somewhat approve and 39% disapprove. A majority (53%) say they are uneasy about Biden's ability to handle an international crisis.
The most positive views on Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war come from Biden's fellow Democrats and from Americans who say they are equally sympathetic to both the Israelis and Palestinians. Biden gets more negative than positive marks from both Americans who lean toward the Israelis and those who lean toward the Palestinians.
Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.