As fighting continues to rage in Gaza amid calls for a cease-fire, about twice as many Americans say Hamas (40%) as Israel (19%) is responsible for the current violence.
Just a quarter (25%) believe that Israel has gone too far in responding to the conflict; far more think Israel’s response has been about right (35%) or that it has not gone far enough (15%).
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted July 24-27 among 1,005 adults, finds substantial partisan divisions over which side is most responsible for the violence and Israel’s response to the conflict.
A majority of Republicans (60%) say Hamas is most responsible for the current violence. Democrats are divided: 29% say Hamas is more responsible, 26% Israel, while 18% volunteer that both sides are responsible.
There also are deep differences over Israel’s response to the conflict: Nearly half of Republicans (46%) say Israel’s response has been about right while another 19% say it has not gone far enough; just 16% think Israel’s response has been excessive. Among Democrats, as many say Israel has gone too far (35%) as say its response has been about right (31%); 9% say Israel has not gone far enough.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this month found that the partisan gap in Mideast sympathies is as wide as it has been at any point since the late 1970s. Nearly three quarters of Republicans (73%) said they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with 45% of independents and 44% of Democrats.
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.
The Week’s News
News about the fighting between Israel and Hamas vied with the situation at the U.S. border and a downed Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine as the public’s top news story last week.
A third of the public (33%) is very closely following the investigation into the downing of the airplane in Ukraine. Just as many (33%) are paying close attention to news about children from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and 32% are following the fighting between Israel and Hamas very closely. Fewer Americans tracked news about the recent court rulings on the Affordable Care Act (25%) and the 2014 congressional midterms (14%).
While young people typically express lower levels of interest in news stories than older adults, the age differences are especially large when it comes to news about the U.S.-Mexico border, the downed Malaysia Airlines plane and fighting between Israel and Hamas. Roughly two-in-ten adults ages 18-29 are closely following each of those stories, compared with about half of those ages 65 and older.
There also are ideological differences in interest in the week’s news stories, especially when it comes to news about Central American children crossing the border. About four-in-ten conservative Republicans (42%) are closely following news about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, compared with 27% of liberal Democrats.
Hispanics are no more likely to be closely following news about the border (28%) than are non-Hispanic whites (34%) and non-Hispanic blacks (32%).