Sunday, May 19, 2024

Vast majority of Americans support Israel’s Rafah offensive: Poll

A vast majority of Americans back Israel's planned military operation against Rafah, the densely-populated city in besieged Gaza Strip, according to a new survey. At least 34,500 people, mainly children and women, have been killed in the blockaded territory since October 2023.

The Harvard CAPS-Harris survey shared with The Hill showed 80 percent of registered voters said they support Israel more in the war, while 20 percent said they support Hamas more. That is about in line with the poll’s findings from last month, when 79 percent indicated they support Israel more.

In this month’s poll, older age groups were much more likely to be supportive of Israel than younger respondents, though a clear majority of each age group supported Israel more than Hamas. More than 90 percent of those 65 years old and older and of those 55 to 64 said they support Israel more, while 85 percent of those 45 to 54 and three-quarters of those 35 to 44 said the same.

Support for Israel was the lowest among the youngest age groups. Pollsters found 64 percent of those 25 to 34 and 57 percent of those 18 to 24 said they support Israel more, while the rest of those age groups said they support Hamas more.

The poll’s results come as numerous pro-Palestinian protests have popped up on college campuses throughout the country. Students have set up encampments to protest for days at schools including Columbia and New York University.

Universities have responded to the protests with a range of tactics including negotiations, suspensions and arrests to try to end the encampments taking place on school property. Protesters have called for their universities to end their business relationships with companies that they say are contributing to Israel’s war, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.

Mark Penn, the co-director of the poll, said support for Israel “has not budged” despite the “campus unrest”. He added the student protests appear out of step with broader public attitudes on Israel and noted that the poll showed Americans largely want a cease-fire in the war but only after Hamas is removed from power and the hostages they seized during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel are returned.

The poll found 61 percent of respondents support a cease-fire only after those conditions are met, while 39 percent support an unconditional cease-fire. A stark divide exists based on age group in responses to this question.

An overwhelming majority of those 55 to 64 and those 65 and older support a cease-fire only after Hamas is gone and the hostages are returned. More narrow majorities of those 35 to 44 and those 45 to 54 also support that, while 59 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 67 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds support an unconditional ceasefire.

At the same time, the poll also found support for Israel to continue its military operation into the city of Rafah, where many Palestinian civilians have fled to after Israel’s offensive began. Israeli leaders have said that Hamas fighters are in the city.

More than 70 percent of respondents said Israel should move forward with the operation, including 57 percent of those 18 to 24 and increasing percentages with each older age group.

Pollsters noted how the framing of a question matters, as 70 percent said they support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, but 68 percent said they would oppose one if that meant Hamas could continue to hold hostages and run Gaza.

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