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Poll: Growing number of Americans say Israel is going too far in response to Hamas


The Israel-Hamas war has left many Americans questioning their country's role in the world and is testing long-standing diplomatic ties. Now a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows how Americans are divided along racial and generational lines on these issues.

Joining us now to explain these findings is NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. So, Domenico, this poll shows that Americans side with Israel in this conflict generally. How does that support break down by party?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Yeah. I mean, overall, 61% say that their sympathies lie more with Israelis than Palestinians, but that's driven by Republicans and independents, really, here. You know, big majorities of both - 8 in 10 Republicans, two-thirds of independents - say that they side with Israel. Democrats, though, on the other hand, are split down the middle. There are big racial and generational divides here. Those 45 and younger were 25 points less likely to say that their sympathies are more with Israel. Roughly 50% of those under 45 said that they side mostly with Palestinians here. And nonwhites were 16 points less likely to side with Israel compared to whites.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, we also asked people to weigh in specifically on Israel's response to Hamas' attack on October 7 - whether the response has been too much, about right or too little. What did you find there?

MONTANARO: Yeah, another big split. Thirty-eight percent say Israel's response has been too much. Another 38% say that it's been about right. As we've seen, Israel has responded to Hamas' attack with a massive show of force. There's been high civilian casualties in this densely populated area of the Gaza Strip. And as that's gotten more and more attention, more Americans are saying that Israel's response has been too much. That's up 12 points since last month, when we first asked this question after Hamas' attack. That was driven by Democrats again, who jumped 21 points in the last month, and now a majority say Israel's gone too far. But it's not limited to Democrats, I have to say. You know, independents, whites, nonwhites, old and young all jumped double digits in saying the same thing. Those saying the response has been about right lines up more with pro-Trump and Republican groups.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So hearing how you said that Democrats' numbers have shifted, it sounds like it could be tricky for President Biden.

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, he's really, you know, been trying to walk a tightrope in supporting Israel but also making warnings about upholding international law and advocating for humanitarian pauses to help Palestinians trapped in Gaza. Overall, 55% of people say that they disapprove of Biden's handling of the war. And that includes just 60% of Democrats. That's down 17 points from last month. He's got some real problems here with younger voters and nonwhites, and they're both key to his reelection chances.

You know, bigger picture here, 8 in 10 in the survey said that they're concerned about the war leading to hate crimes in the United States, something we've already seen. You know, Biden and the White House have tried to head this off and speak to it, but it's a real potential tinderbox.

MARTÍNEZ: And domestically, Americans seem to be indicating, according to the poll, that they want less to do with the rest of the world. So what did that survey say?

MONTANARO: Yeah. Again, people really split here. Two-thirds of Democrats say that the United States should continue to play a leadership role, but 56% of independents and 51% of Republicans say it should focus on its own problems and play less of a leadership role. That's a huge shift away from the hawkishness of, really, the not-so-distant Republican past. Again here, huge racial and generational divides. Majorities of nonwhites and those under 45 think the U.S. should turn inward, compared to majorities of whites and those over 45 who think the opposite. Big divide here and really critical to what America will be in the future.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Lots more in this survey. You can read it all on npr.org. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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.