Oct 26, 2023 - World

U.S. adults' views on Israel-Hamas war depend on age

What adults say the U.S. government should publicly do in regards to the Israel-Hamas war, by generation
Data: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

There is a clear generational divide when it comes to how American voters perceive the war in Israel, according to a slew of new polling data.

Why it matters: This could explain the challenges university leaders have faced in reacting to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks.

  • It could also explain why CEOs have not come under the same level of scrutiny, given that most 18- to 24-year-olds have not yet entered corporate America.

By the numbers: Less than half (48%) of Gen Z and millennials believe the U.S. should publicly voice support of Israel compared with 63% of Gen Xers, 83% of baby boomers and 86% of members of the Silent Generation, according to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

  • An Oct. 17 Quinnipiac poll of 1,737 adults found that 51% of voters under the age of 35 do not support sending weapons and military equipment to Israel in response to the Hamas terrorist attack, compared with 77% of those 50 and over who approve.
  • An Oct. 17 Generation Lab poll of 978 college students found that 48% of them do not blame the Oct. 7 attacks on Hamas — with 12% blaming it on other Middle Eastern governments, 11% blaming it on Israel and the remaining 25% blaming it on someone else.
  • Meanwhile, more than 1,800 American Rhodes, Fulbright, and other scholars have signed a petition calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll found that though a large majority of Americans support Israel (84%) and its response to Hamas' terrorist attack (88%), these views differ greatly by generation.

  • The Israel-Hamas war "is not an issue split by party, but by age and by media consumption," says Mark Penn, CEO of Stagwell and chairman of The Harris Poll.

Reality check: Gen Z is the most digitally native generation with 1 in 5 using TikTok for news and information.

Zoom in: The hashtag #Palestine has received 40.3 billion views across TikTok, while #Israel has 35.5 billion and #Hamas has 5.1 billion.

  • "Both sides see social media as a hugely important tool to get their messaging out," Mosheh Oinounou, founder of Mo News told The Washington Post.
  • "Social media is its own battleground in the battleground for public opinion. You have a whole bunch of influencers on both sides, and there's a whole social media fight happening."

What they're saying: "Older folks are very shocked by the generational divide, but this tension has been brewing on social media and college campuses for a while — both of which play a very powerful role in how young people view the world," says Rachel Janfaza, an expert on Gen Z political culture and founder of The Up and Up.

The bottom line: Understanding where your audience lands on controversial issues is critical for effective communication, says Cheryl Fenelle Dixon, principal of Perfectly Clear Communications.

  • "Academic institutions have historically been places for debate, intellectual curiosity, idea sharing and finding common ground amidst free speech, which is why communication around the Israel-Hamas war is incredibly complicated for universities," says Dixon.
  • "Add impassioned students and long-standing political conflict to the fray, and it's easy to understand why emotions are running high and a divide is growing deeper."
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