During the third week of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, between 24 and 27 July, pollsters from the Pew Research Center conducted telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,005 U.S. adults. Published in a report titled “Hamas Seen as More to Blame than Israel for Current Violence,” their results illustrate the response of the U.S. public—broken down by sex, race, age, education level, and political inclination—to the following questions: Which side is more responsible for the violence? What do you think of Israel’s actions in this conflict?
Highlighted here are excerpts from the 16-page report. The full report, including additional charts, the results from a third question on news consumption, and a section on Pew’s methodology, is available online at http://www.pewresearch.org.
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Views of Israel’s Response to the Conflict
There are broad demographic divides in views of Israel’s response to the conflict that go beyond party identification.
By about two-to-one (40% to 22%), more whites consider Israel’s response to the current conflict about right than say it has gone too far. By contrast, blacks and Hispanics are about as likely to say Israel’s response has gone too far as to say it has been appropriate (36%-27% and 35%-28%, respectively).
Older Americans have long offered more support for Israel than younger adults. In the current survey, a 39% plurality of those over 50 say Israel’s response to the conflict has been about right, compared with 22% who say it has gone too far. Among those under 50, about as many say Israel’s actions have been excessive (29%) as appropriate (33%).
College graduates are roughly divided between viewing the Israeli response as having gone too far (32%) and saying it has been about right (36%). Among those with less education, pluralities say the response from Israel has been appropriate.
Liberal Democrats are among the most likely to view Israel’s response as excessive: 44% say they have gone too far in the conflict with Hamas, compared to 33% who say the response has been about right. At the other end of the spectrum, 51% of conservative Republicans say Israel’s response has been about right; just 10% say it has gone too far.
When fighting flared between Israel and Hamas in January 2009, 50% said the Israeli response to the conflict was about right compared with 24% who thought it went too far; just 7% thought Israel did not go far enough.
And in August 2006, amid fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, the plurality view also was that Israel’s response was appropriate (44%). About a quarter said it had gone too far (23%), compared with 15% who said it had not gone far enough.
Who is More Responsible for Current Violence?
As with views of Israel’s response toward Hamas, there are significant divides in views over who is most responsible for the current violence.
Overall, 47% of whites say Hamas is most responsible for the violence, compared with just 14% who blame Israel. By contrast, as many blacks blame Israel (27%) as Hamas (25%) for the fighting; and Hispanics are somewhat more likely to say Israel is to blame (35%) than Hamas (20%).
Among Americans under 30, 29% say Israel is most responsible for the current violence compared with 21% who blame Hamas. Pluralities of all other age groups lay more blame for the violence with Hamas, than Israel. Those ages 30-49 are more likely to blame Hamas for the fighting (37%-20%) even though they are split over whether Israel’s response has been appropriate or excessive (34%-30%).
Liberal Democrats are evenly divided with 30% blaming Israel for the violence and 30% blaming Hamas. Conservative Republicans give more blame to Hamas than Israel by a wide 70%-6% margin.