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Americans Divided Over U.S. Involvement in Middle East

Story Highlights

  • 41% say U.S. is doing right amount, 39% not enough, 19% too much
  • More Republicans than Democrats favor doing more for Israel
  • Record-high 47% view Netanyahu unfavorably, 33% favorably

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is no clear mandate from the American public when it comes to the United States’ involvement in resolving the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. Roughly four in 10 each say the U.S. is doing “about the right amount” (41%) or “not enough” (39%), while about two in 10 (19%) think the U.S. is doing “too much.”

Forty percent of Republicans and Democrats alike think the U.S. is not doing enough to resolve the conflict, but Democrats (48%) are more likely than Republicans (33%) to say U.S. involvement is about right. Meanwhile, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to think the U.S. is doing too much (26% vs. 11%, respectively). Independents’ views are on par with the national averages.

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These findings are from a Dec. 1-20, 2023, Gallup poll, conducted about two months after Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that led to a military operation by Israel. The poll began as a weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas came to an end. More recently, Israeli officials have indicated some form of conflict is likely to continue for months.

A November poll found Americans divided in their approval of Israel’s military action against Hamas, with Republicans twice as likely as Democrats to approve. Israel has been a longtime ally of the U.S., and President Joe Biden has asserted its right to defend itself against Hamas. While his administration has pushed for a ceasefire, Biden also recently used presidential authority to send weapons to Israel. These actions have drawn the ire of some Democrats — both lawmakers and rank-and-file Americans — who are concerned about the resulting loss of civilian lives and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Americans Divided Over U.S. Support for Israelis and Palestinians

Gallup’s December poll also gauged Americans’ perceptions of the level of support that the U.S. gives to Israel and the Palestinians in general. Almost four in 10 U.S. adults, 38%, say Israel receives about the right amount of support, while 36% think it gets too much and 24% too little. Americans’ views of U.S. support for the Palestinians are more evenly divided, with roughly equal one-third shares saying the U.S. supports the Palestinians too much, the right amount and too little.

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Partisans differ in their assessments of U.S. support for Israel and the Palestinians, mainly in the percentage who think each is supported too much versus too little. Four in 10 Democrats and independents say the U.S. provides too much support for Israel, compared with 26% of Republicans. Meanwhile, Republicans (37%) are much more likely than Democrats (15%) and independents (22%) to think the U.S. is not assisting Israel enough.

The party differences are greater in terms of perceived support for the Palestinians. A slight majority of Republicans, 52%, say the U.S. provides too much support to the Palestinians, and 14% of Democrats and 28% of independents share this view. In contrast, nearly half of Democrats, 49%, think U.S. support for the Palestinians is lacking — but far fewer Republicans (16%) and independents (34%) agree.

Gallup last measured Americans’ views of U.S. support of Israel and the Palestinians in 2006, during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. The current percentages saying the U.S. is doing too little for both groups are higher than the 2006 figures.

The measure on Israel has been asked periodically since 2001, and the latest 24% who say the U.S. is doing too little is the highest on record.

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Netanyahu’s Image in U.S. Is Most Negative to Date

Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister but has been charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Netanyahu has also led the most conservative Israeli government to date, as his Likud party has enlisted far-right parties to form a governing coalition and recently tried to limit Israeli courts’ ability to reverse actions of the government. His government has faced recent criticism for what is seen as serious security lapses that allowed Hamas to carry out the surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Netanyahu’s latest job approval rating among Israelis, from Gallup’s Oct. 17-Dec. 3 World Poll survey in Israel, is at 40%, with 52% disapproving.

Gallup has periodically asked Americans for their views on Netanyahu since 1997. Typically, he has been viewed more positively than negatively, but the latest data show a sharp reversal in that trend, as his unfavorable rating of 47% far outpaces his 33% favorable rating. Netanyahu’s unfavorable rating is 20 percentage points higher than the prior reading in 2019 and his worst on record.

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Republicans have consistently regarded Netanyahu more positively than Democrats and independents, and that continues. Currently, 55% of Republicans view him favorably, compared with 14% of Democrats and 30% of independents. However, Netanyahu’s favorability is down among all three party groups since his last reading in 2019.

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Bottom Line

Americans lack consensus in their views of the United States’ involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict and its overall support for Israel and the Palestinians. Partisans are divided, with Republicans more sympathetic to Israel and Democrats to the Palestinians. While Netanyahu’s image has worsened in the U.S., a majority of Republicans continue to view him favorably.

As the presidential election year begins and the fighting in Gaza persists, Biden faces difficult decisions about U.S. involvement in the Middle East conflict that may continue to draw criticism from part of the Democratic base.

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