Polls from the Past: How opinion has changed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
November 17, 2023, 12:37 AM GMT+0

To explore how public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has changed through the years, a recent YouGov poll re-asked poll questions from before 2010 found in the Roper Center Polling Archive, as part of a series called Polls from the Past. The results show that some opinions have shifted substantially, though in conflicting ways: There are more-positive perceptions of the Palestinian people but also less support for a Palestinian state and a perception that there is less sympathy globally for the Palestinian position.

A 2002 Program on International Policy Attitudes poll found that Americans saw a near-even split in views on whether more countries support the Israeli or Palestinian position. Today, by a margin of two to one, more Americans think the Israeli position gets more support globally.

Consistent with that finding, just 47% of Americans say Palestinians should have their own state, down from 68% found by a 2009 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. The share of Americans opposed to a Palestinian state hasn't changed much, but there has been a big increase in the share who say they don't know, to 35% from 19%. (Although the latest poll used the same wording as prior polls, differences in methodology could account for some of the increase in Americans selecting neutral options such as "no answer" or "don't know.")

A number of U.S. presidents over the years have tried to stop Israel from building new settlements in the West Bank. But Americans today have a dim view of President Joe Biden's ability to get Israel to stop. A 2003 Program on International Policy Attitudes/Knowledge Networks survey found that 45% of Americans thought the U.S. president at the time, George W. Bush, could get Israel to stop building new settlements, if he used all his available options. Now, only 22% say the same about President Joe Biden; 23% give no answer for Biden, compared to 8% for Bush.

American attitudes toward Palestinians are negative but have improved since 2006, when a Search for Common Ground/Program on International Policy Attitudes poll found a net -56 attitude toward Palestinians' influence in the world. (That's the percentage point difference between the share of Americans who said Palestinians have a "mainly positive" influence and the share who said their influence was "mainly negative.") That score has improved to -33, the second biggest increase among the 13 groups or places polled, after France's improvement since that Iraq war-era poll.

Since 2009, far more Americans distinguish Hamas from the Palestinian people. A 2009 McClatchy/Ipsos-Public Affairs survey found that more Americans did not make a distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people, than did (53% vs. 37%). After Hamas' attack on Israel last month, that looks very different: Now 48% make a distinction and 27% do not.

See the results for this YouGov poll and explore more Polls from the Past

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on October 24 - 28, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. 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 4%.

Image: Getty (Uriel Sinai)