Since releasing our latest figures on Americans’ sympathies in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict last week, we’ve received a number of inquiries about the extent to which younger adults’ attitudes are responsible for the recent change among Democrats.
The article pointed out that Democrats’ sympathy toward the Palestinians has increased to the point that a larger percentage of that party now sympathizes more with the Palestinians than with the Israelis (49% vs. 38%, respectively). That represents a net sympathy score of -11 for Israel.
At the same time, we reported that a similar trend has occurred among U.S. millennials. Whereas this group of adults (born between 1980 and 2000, currently aged 23 to 43) once sympathized more with the Israelis, they are now evenly split. Meanwhile, the three older generations continue to sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinians.
The logical question is, are the two related? In other words, are millennial Democrats responsible for the recent pro-Palestinian shift among Democrats overall? The short answer is, not entirely. But first a note about methodology.
We can’t answer this question with 2023 data because there are not enough respondents in a poll of roughly 1,000 national adults to analyze generational groups within each party. Instead, we analyzed the trends in multiyear groupings that align with key inflection points in public attitudes.
- From 2011 to 2014, majorities of Democrats (between 53% and 58%) consistently sympathized more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians.
- From 2015 to 2018, closer to half of Democrats (47% to 53%) sympathized mainly with the Israelis.
- From 2019 through 2023, less than half of Democrats (38% to 44%) sympathized mainly with the Israelis.
Viewing the trends by generation on this basis, all four generational groups of Democrats reviewed have become less partial toward the Israelis in the conflict. However, the views of millennials and members of the Silent Generation (born between 1900 and 1945, currently aged 78 and older) have shifted the most. Specifically, in 2011-2014, 51% of millennial Democrats sided with the Israelis versus 26% with the Palestinians, yielding +25 net sympathy for Israel. In 2019-2023, those figures were 35% and 46%, respectively, or -11 net sympathy for Israel.
That overall 36-point shift in millennials’ net sympathy toward Israel between the two time periods compares with a 39-point change among the Silent Generation, a 23-point change among baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964, currently aged 59 to 77) and a 14-point change among Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979, currently aged 44 to 58).
Generation Z (those born after 2000) is not included in this analysis because there are too few respondents in this age range in the data to provide reliable estimates. But the findings from 2019-2023 (based on about 100 Democratic Gen Z respondents) suggest their views are similar to Democratic millennials.
The Silent Generation has been shrinking as a proportion of Democrats over the past decade (as more pass away), while millennials’ proportion has been growing (as more come into adulthood). As a result, millennials (and Gen Z members) account for an increasing proportion of Democrats each year, thus continually magnifying the influence of their views on the party overall.
Support for Israel Among Republican and Independent Millennials
We see that independent and Republican millennials have also become less partial to Israel than they were a decade ago. However, while independent millennials’ evolving views are reflected in most other independent generational groups, Republican millennials are the outlier in their party.
Looking at independents, net sympathy for Israel fell 14 points between 2011-2014 and 2019-2023 among millennials, 12 points among the Silent Generation and 10 points among baby boomers. Only the views of Gen X bucked the trend, showing little change.
Turning to Republicans, net sympathy for Israel declined 14 points between 2011-2014 and 2019-2023 among millennials. That is a much steeper drop than the five-point decline seen among that party’s Silent Generation. Support for Israel has been steady among Republican baby boomers, while it has increased 10 points among members of Generation X.
It should be noted that these multiyear summaries do not capture the extent of changes that have occurred in the last year among Democrats as a whole (with net support for Israel falling from +2 to -11), but it provides some insight into the impact millennials are having on the longer-term trend, more generally.
Millennial Democrats’ feelings about the Middle East conflict have changed over the past decade, shifting from solidly in Israel’s corner to now expressing more sympathy toward the Palestinians. While millennials are not the only Democratic generational group moving in this direction, the extent of their more Palestinian-oriented sympathies combined with their growing numbers means they have had a disproportionate influence on the broader pro-Palestinian shift seen on this question among Democrats as a whole.
To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on Twitter.