Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – In a new NORC/ AP opinion poll, 50% of Americans say that they believe Israel has gone too far in its war on Gaza. That is up from 40% in November.
Even though the US television news networks steadfastly decline to cover the Israeli war on Gaza in a concerted way or to show many videos of the carnage, the American public is well enough informed of the vast destruction of lives and civilian infrastructure to condemn Israel’s tactics.
Another way to put it is that if Americans got a vote on Israel’s war policy, Israel would lose the contest.
This outcome is even more clear among Democrats, 62% of whom say Israel has gone too far. That view is up 4 points from November.
And virtually all Americans (85%) are concerned or somewhat concerned that the current situation could spiral into a wider war. In fact, that fear may underline some of the other opinions they are voicing in this poll.
President Joe Biden is seriously out of step with his own party. Although he has complained about indiscriminate Israeli bombing (a war crime) and his people leak that he is unhappy with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Biden continues to provide Israel on a daily basis with the munitions and ammunition needed to prosecute the war, without which it would cease.
Some 53% of Democrats — a majority — actively disapprove of Biden’s handling of the crisis. The poll reports that 67% disapprove over-all, but a lot of the discontent comes from Republicans who wouldn’t say Biden was doing something right to save their lives.
According to AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer and Linley Sanders, there is a racial division, with 60% of non-white Democrats disapproving of his handling of the crisis, whereas about half of whites agree with the way Biden is losing on the issue. Since Biden needs the African American and Hispanic voters to be enthusiastic about him, this finding is bad news.
Knickmeyer and Sanders report that, even worse, a full 70% of Democrats under 45 disapprove of Biden’s performance here. An enthusiasm gap among the youth can be fatal for Democratic presidential campaigns, as John Kerry discovered.
According to the poll’s topline results, even among Republicans, the percentage who think Israel has gone too far has nearly doubled since November, to a third.
And, about a third of US adults say that Israel has a lot of the responsibility for the outbreak of the war, though twice as many blame Hamas.
81% of Americans say it is important or somewhat important that a ceasefire be negotiated. But a full 90% of Democrats say it is important or somewhat important to have a permanent ceasefire.
Of course, they also want the hostages taken by Hamas released.
Some 66% of Americans say it is important or somewhat important to establish a Palestinian state. That percentage is 78% among Democrats.
The percentage of Democrats favoring the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank and who say it is important to the US to carry this out is 40%. (I guess the 78% above are in favor of something more limited or think it is important but not important to the United States per se.) Only 31% of Democrats said this last August.
Some 77% of Americans say they are concerned or somewhat concerned that the Gaza campaign will increase prejudice against Jews.
About 68% say that they are concerned or somewhat concerned that it will increase prejudice against Muslims.
They would be right.
This poll is relatively small, of 1,152 adults, and so it has a plus or minus 4% margin of error. But even so, the movement of public opinion is clear. Most Americans deeply dislike Israel’s Gaza campaign, believing the Israelis are going to excess, and they are afraid it will draw the US into a wider Middle East conflict. These findings are especially pronounced among non-white minorities and people under 40, both of which a Democratic presidential campaign needs for victory.