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Americans' Views of Both Israel, Palestinian Authority Down

Americans' Views of Both Israel, Palestinian Authority Down

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans’ opinions of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have worsened in the past year amid escalating tensions between the two sides since last fall. Fifty-eight percent of Americans, down from 68% last year, have a “very” or “mostly favorable” view of Israel. This is the lowest favorable rating for Israel in over two decades. At the same time, positive opinions of the Palestinian Authority have dropped from 26% to 18%, the lowest since 2015.


These results are from Gallup’s Feb. 1-20 World Affairs survey. Hamas, the group that effectively rules the Gaza Strip, and Israel have been at war since October. Hamas fighters attacked Israel, killing hundreds of Israeli citizens and taking others hostage. Israel responded with a major military operation in the Gaza Strip that has left thousands of Palestinians dead.

Americans have always been more positive toward their ally Israel than toward the Palestinians. Since Gallup first measured opinions of Israel in 1989, an average of 65% of Americans have had favorable opinions of it. The lowest rating for Israel during this time was 45% in 1989, during another time of heightened tensions in the region.

In contrast, an average of 19% of Americans have viewed the Palestinian Authority positively since Gallup’s first measure in 2000. The high rating was 30% in 2021. Opinions were above the historical averages from 2017 until this year.

Young Adults’ Opinions of Israel Plummet

Young adults show the biggest decline in ratings of Israel, dropping from 64% favorable among 18- to 34-year-olds in 2023 to 38%. Middle-aged adults (those aged 35 to 54) show a smaller but still significant drop, from 66% to 55%, while there has been no meaningful change among adults aged 55 and older.

As a result, the modest age differences in ratings of Israel seen a year ago, when 10 percentage points separated young adults' and older adults’ views, have expanded. Older Americans are now nearly twice as likely as younger Americans to rate Israel positively, 71% to 38%, respectively.

Younger and older adults’ ratings of the Palestinian Authority haven’t changed much in the past year but were not very positive to begin with. There has been a sharp drop in favorability among 35- to 54-year-olds, from 30% to 15%. Middle-aged adults’ opinions are now closer to those of older Americans (11%) than younger Americans (32%).


Young adults are far more likely than older adults to identify as politically independent, so it follows that independents show the biggest change in opinions of Israel over the past year. They tie with Democrats for the biggest decline in ratings of the Palestinian Authority. Overall, Republicans are much more positive toward Israel, and more negative toward the Palestinian Authority, than either independents or Democrats.


Middle East Sympathies Largely Unchanged by War

A separate question in the poll underscores Americans’ leanings toward Israel, as it finds 51% saying they sympathize more with the Israelis and 27% more with the Palestinians. The remainder say they sympathize equally with both sides (4%), do not sympathize with either side (10%) or do not have an opinion (8%).

The balance of opinion is similar to last year, when 54% were more sympathetic to the Israelis and 31% to the Palestinians. This suggests that the recent actions by both sides have done little to shift U.S. loyalties, even if overall opinions toward both sides are less positive.

While Americans have always sympathized more with the Israelis, the gap has narrowed in recent years, with last year’s 23-point gap the smallest measured to date and this year’s nearly the same.


Prevailing political patterns in Middle East sympathies remain in place this year. Republicans overwhelmingly sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians, independents tend to favor Israel, and more Democrats side with the Palestinians than Israelis. This is the case even as Democrats give Israel much higher favorable ratings than they give the Palestinian Authority. The Democrats’ movement has been recent; until 2022, Democrats were more likely to sympathize with Israel.

Among age groups, young adults are slightly more sympathetic to the Palestinians than the Israelis (after being equally divided last year), with the other groups sympathizing with Israel.


More Americans View Conflict as Critical U.S. Threat

Amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas, 52% of Americans now view the conflict as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests. This is up sharply from 35% two years ago, the last time Gallup asked the question, and is the highest since the initial measure in 2004, when 58% said the conflict was a critical threat.

Another 38% of Americans believe the Middle East conflict is an important threat to U.S. vital interests, while 8% say it is not an important threat. Most of the movement in the past two years has occurred between the “critical threat” and “important threat” categories.


The three major party groups largely agree on how much of a threat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses to the U.S., with 55% of Democrats, 53% of Republicans and 50% of independents describing it as a critical threat. All groups are more inclined to see it as a critical threat than two years ago, when 36% of Democrats, 42% of Republicans and 30% of independents held that view.

Older Americans (64%) are far more likely than their middle-aged (38%) or younger counterparts (48%) to perceive the conflict as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests. Two years ago, 43% of those 55 and older, 30% of those aged 35 to 54, and 32% of 18- to 34-year-olds believed it was a critical threat.

No Consensus on Which Side U.S. Should Pressure More for a Resolution

Although Americans say they are more sympathetic to the Israelis than the Palestinians, they divide almost evenly when asked whether the U.S. should put more pressure on the Palestinians (39%) or Israelis (36%) to resolve the conflict. Eight percent say the U.S. should put more pressure on both sides, 7% say it should put pressure on neither, and 9% have no opinion.

When Gallup has asked this question before, prior to the current war, the margin in favor of putting pressure on the Palestinians has been larger, ranging from nine to 23 points.


Majorities of young adults (53%) and Democrats (57%) believe the U.S. should put more pressure on the Israelis, while about half as many in each group -- 27% and 24%, respectively -- think the U.S. should pressure the Palestinians more.

Middle-aged adults and independents are divided evenly between wanting to put more pressure on the Israelis (37% for both groups) and the Palestinians (37% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 34% of independents).

By 64% to 14%, Republicans think the U.S. should pressure the Palestinians more than the Israelis. Older Americans are also more inclined to want the U.S. to put more pressure on the Israelis (49%) than the Palestinians (27%).

Americans Less Optimistic About Peace, Still Favor Two-State Solution

In February 2023, several months before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Americans were divided evenly on whether Israel and the Arab nations would ever be able to settle their differences and live in peace. Americans are somewhat less optimistic this year -- 42% expect there to be peace, and 53% do not.

Americans have been much more pessimistic about Middle East peace in the past than they are now. For example, in 2006, a record-low 27% thought peace in the region was possible.


The U.S. and other nations have called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state as a means of settling Israeli-Palestinian differences. A slim majority of Americans, 53%, continue to favor the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, while 34% are opposed.

The current figures are essentially unchanged from last year and generally similar to what Gallup has measured since 2019. Before that, Americans were more likely to favor than oppose an independent Palestinian state, but support was generally below the majority level, with higher percentages not expressing an opinion either way.

At no point have more Americans opposed than favored a Palestinian state; the closest division was three points in 2017.


There are vast political differences on this matter -- 74% of Democrats, 55% of independents and 26% of Republicans are in favor of creating an independent Palestinian state. A majority of Republicans, 59%, oppose the idea. Republicans have been more likely to oppose than favor the establishment of a Palestinian state since 2012.

Bottom Line

The war between Israel and Hamas has made Americans less positive toward both sides. While Americans’ underlying pro-Israeli sympathies have not changed since the war began, they are now divided over which side the U.S. should pressure more to end the conflict. Americans were also largely divided on Israel’s actions shortly after the fighting began.

These findings underscore the policy challenges the conflict is creating for the Biden administration. Those challenges are made more difficult by President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats tending to side with the Palestinians more than the Israelis and wanting the U.S. to exert more pressure on its traditional ally.

Further underscoring the difficulty for Biden are young adults’ much less positive views toward Israel. To the extent Biden’s efforts to end the conflict are seen as favoring Israel too much, it could cost him politically with this key constituency of the Democratic Party, one that will be crucial to his winning reelection.

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