American divisions are growing wider as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues, threatening to alienate the Democratic Party from its youngest voters — whose support for Palestinians is far greater than other age groups’.
Most Americans say they’re more sympathetic toward Israelis in the conflict, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. But the number of voters sympathizing more with Palestinians increased by double digits compared to a Quinnipiac survey last month, from 13 percent to 24 percent.
The shift is largely driven by respondents under 35 years old, who overwhelmingly said they disapprove of Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack (66 percent), have greater sympathy for Palestinians in the conflict than Israelis (52 percent) and believe the U.S. is too supportive of Israel (50 percent). Older voters, especially those over 65, are far more likely to hold the opposite positions and be more supportive of Israel, as are Republican voters.
Young voters were more evenly divided on whom they sympathized with in October, but have since flipped back toward the Palestinians — from 26 percent then to 52 percent now — in a return to a long-term trend that has split the party. In one month, the number of young voters who were more sympathetic to Israelis than Palestinians fell from 41 percent to 29 percent.
The generational divide poses an issue for the Democratic Party, which relies on young voters as a key bloc in its coalition. Party strategists and elected officials are already worried that Democratic support for Israel, led by President Joe Biden, will cost the party at the ballot box.
“Mr. President, Michigan is an important star for you, so is Pennsylvania, and so is Georgia. And guess what? We will not forget,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first and only Palestinian American member of Congress, at a demonstration in mid-October.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that Biden was “taking a hit” for his response to the conflict, at a recent press conference.
Democratic Party leaders are finding themselves far apart from young voters on the Israel-Palestine conflict — and from a small cohort of their own progressive members of Congress who are backing a cease-fire resolution in Congress.
In down-ballot elections, some pro-Israel groups are already planning to challenge members, like Tlaib, who have spoken out in support of Palestinians and a cease-fire. There are negative ads running against Tlaib and Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York and Summer Lee of Pennsylvania — who have backed the cease-fire legislation — in their districts.
Voters over age 65 were much more likely to support Israel in the poll. About two-thirds of those voters back sending more military aid to Israel and a majority approve of Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack from Hamas.
And 65 percent of older voters said their sympathies lie more with Israelis than Palestinians.
There’s also a stark partisan divide.
The poll found that 60 percent of Democrats disapprove of the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 attack with 27 percent approving. Democrats were also split on whether to send more military aid to Israel, with 48 percent against it and 45 percent in support.
A majority of Democrats said they thought U.S. support for Israel was “about right.” But about one-third of Democrats also said the U.S. was “too supportive.”
The Quinnipiac survey found that Republicans are overall far more supportive of Israel and supporting additional U.S. aid, making them more aligned with the current U.S. government response.
Seventy-three percent of Republicans approved of Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack and 71 percent said they supported sending additional military aid.
The poll was conducted on Nov. 9 to 13 with 1,574 self-identified registered voters and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.