Middle East Update: U.S. Support for Israel, Hamas Is Stable

PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ views of the military actions of Israel and Hamas in the current conflict in Gaza have changed little over the past 10 days. The public remains closely divided over whether Israel’s actions have been justified, but is mostly critical of Hamas’ actions.

These results from Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted Aug. 2-3 are also similar to what Gallup measured for another period of heightened Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2002. This stability suggests that Americans’ underlying attitudes about the region may be anchoring their reaction to the Gaza conflict, even as raw images of the fighting and civilian casualties pour in.

Although the latest explosion of violence has been going on for nearly a month prior to the temporary cease-fire agreed to on Monday, Americans appear to be paying no more or less attention to the conflict now than they were in late July. Six in 10 say they are following the conflict “very” or “somewhat closely.”

The advent of social media has changed the dynamics of the way news unfolds worldwide. Some observers have argued that this more real-time news, often including more graphic coverage of the fighting, destruction, injuries, and deaths in Gaza, could affect public opinion about the conflict.

The evidence to support that hypothesis is not strong. Not only is opinion little different now than it was during a similar 2002 conflict, but just 19% of Americans report using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media to follow news of the conflict “a lot” or “some,” significantly lower than those who are using newspapers, the Internet, and in particular television (including cable) news.

The attitudes of those following the conflict on social media are only marginally different from the attitudes of those following the conflict using other sources of news and information, although many Americans may be exposed to multiple sources of news content.

Those who are paying closest attention to the conflict in general are more likely to say that Israel’s actions are justified. It follows that the four groups who use each of the four sources of information are also more likely than the average respondent to say Israel’s actions are justified. There is a slight tendency for those using social media to be less likely than those using other media to say Israel’s actions are justified, but even among this group, …read more

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