Generation Gap in Israeli-Hamas Conflict

Over the past month, the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has continued to escalate as both sides have been unable to agree to a durable ceasefire agreement. Given the America’s strong historical alliance with Israel and the possible regional consequences of a prolonged military altercation, the current conflict creates implications for US foreign policy moving forward. As a result, Americans are closely focused on news about the continued fighting, as 62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} are following the news very or fairly closely (Pew Research Center, July 2014).

Throughout this conflict, Americans have been steadfast in their support of Israel. A strong majority (60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) still have a favorable opinion of Israel (CNN/ORC Poll, July 2014) and Americans have been unwavering in their sympathies for Israel over the Palestinians. As indicated on the chart below, through current and past conflicts, support for Israel has remained consistent.

chart 1

However, despite overall American support of Israel, there is a significant generation gap, with younger Americans signaling significantly less enthusiasm in supporting Israel than older Americans. (Chart data: Pew Research Center, July 2014)

Chart 2

In fact, young Americans are the only age group in which more believe Israel is responsible for the current violence in the Gaza Strip than Hamas.

chart 3

While young adults are split over whether Israel is justified in taking military action against Hamas, older Americans clearly indicate they consider Israel to be justified in their actions. Further, compared to the Israeli-Hamas clashes in 2008 and 2012, fewer young adults believe Israel to be justified in pursuing military action in the current conflict.

chart 4

The political implications of the position of younger Americans on the Israeli-Gaza conflict do not bode well for President Obama. Although 18-39 year olds are split on his handling of international affairs, 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve – 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove, approval of the president’s handling of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians is inverted and lower than any other age group, 33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve – 54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove (Washington Post/ABC News, July 2014). And, of those who approve, only 8{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} strongly approve, indicating how shallow his approval is on this issue among young people.

The Israeli-US relationship has been strained at times under the Obama Administration, and this most recent conflict presents another stress test to understand the depth of our current relationship. Support for Israel remains strong among the American public. But, with such a wide generation gap on an issue that could extend long-term, there could be more instability of views concerning similar crises in the future.

Public Opinion Strategies