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Since the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and the start of the war in Gaza, Americans have become more divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than they have been in decades, according to new polling data. The most prominent shift can be found among Democrats, where support for both Palestinians and Israelis has risen at the expense of those who favor not taking sides.

The survey data, published Thursday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Ipsos, shows how once bipartisan views on the conflict have shifted along partisan lines, a change that has only accelerated since Oct. 7. While Democrats have made a small shift toward Palestinian interests, a growing majority of Republican’s continue to favor Israel.

Independent voters, coveted by political parties in election years, are increasingly split, too.

The survey data shows a notable shift in attitudes between 2023, when the survey was conducted in September, and the 2024 data, which was conducted Feb. 16-18 (the survey, conducted with an randomly sampled online research panel, used a nationally weighted sample of 1,039 adults; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, which is higher among partisan subgroups).

As the Chicago Council has been asking these questions in polls for more than two decades, it’s possible to see a more gradual change in American views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2002, almost three-quarters of Americans (71 percent) said the United States should not take sides. That number had declined to 56 percent last month, according to the new data.

The world confronts Israel over its occupation of Palestinian lands

This is all being felt acutely by the Biden administration. President Biden faced strong backlash during this week’s Democratic primary in Michigan, a state with a large Arab American population and where a campaign called for primary voters to vote “uncommitted” in protest of Biden’s support for Israel and his refusal to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Biden still won the primary overwhelmingly, but roughly 13.2 percent of votes were returned as “uncommitted” — more than 100,000 in total, substantially higher than in previous primaries and higher than the campaign’s stated aim of 10,000. Michigan is considered a swing state and is likely to be a battleground for Biden’s presidential campaign against former president Donald Trump in November.

The electoral pressure on Biden could yield some foreign policy results. On the eve of the Michigan primary, Biden said he hoped a deal between Israel and Hamas could be reached as soon as next week. As my colleague Yasmeen Abutaleb reported, the White House hopes a temporary pause in fighting could “lay the groundwork” for a more permanent cease-fire by making it harder for Israel to resume the conflict on the same scale.

Biden went further later in the day during an appearance on the talk show “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” saying: “There’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan … in order to give us time to get all the hostages out.” He also renewed his criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. “If [Israel] keeps this up with this incredibly conservative government they have … they’re going to lose support from around the world,” he said.

Biden’s comments about a pause have not been confirmed by representatives of Hamas or Israel. In a statement released Tuesday, Netanyahu said he had been “countering international pressure to end the war ahead of time and mobilize support for Israel” and pushed back on Biden’s statement about support by pointing to a second poll, by Harvard and Harris, suggesting a large majority of Americans support Israel over Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

Netanyahu’s comment does reflect some of the complexity for Democrats, who have supporters both sympathetic to Israel and the Palestinians. But there’s more bad news for Netanyahu. While the Chicago Council-Ipsos poll generally paints a picture of support for Israel among Americans, particularly Republicans, there are signs that the support is not deep.

Half of Americans were found to agree that the U.S. security relationship with Israel strengthens U.S. national security, significantly lower than for other allies like Germany and Ukraine and seven points above Saudi Arabia. Forty-three percent of Americans felt that the U.S. security relationship with Israel weakened U.S. national security. In both cases, there were significant partisan divides.

When it came to U.S. military aid to Israel, more than half (53 percent) of Americans agreed that there should be restrictions on the aid so that it “cannot use that aid toward military operations against Palestinians.” Forty percent of Republicans backed this option, compared with 64 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents.

Other polls have found similar concerns. A poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs in January found that half of all Americans felt Israel’s military campaign in Gaza had gone too far, while a plurality (37 percent) thought the Biden administration had been too supportive of the Israelis.

It is hard to know whether the war will create a long-term shift in U.S. public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But for now, it appears that U.S. public opinion has edged closer to the declines seen in other nations, illustrated by the isolation seen by Israel — and by proxy, the United States — during votes calling for truces at the United Nations.

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