62 Percent of Liberal Democrats Say U.S. Isn't Supportive Enough of Palestinians: Poll

A new poll shows that Americans are divided along party lines over the United States' policy towards Israel and the Palestinians.

The survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 51 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Democrats who describe themselves as liberal say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Palestinians.

Conversely, 49 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of self-identified conservatives said the U.S. should be more supportive of Israel.

The poll was conducted about three weeks into the cease-fire following destructive bombings between Israel and Gaza forces that killed at least 254 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.

The survey also found that more Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden's handling of the conflict than approve of it.

Biden Israel-Palestine
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the conflict in the Middle East from the White House on May 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Israel and Hamas announced that they would agree to a cease-fire, which will take into effect on Friday, following days of fighting that claimed more than 200 lives. A new poll shows that more Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of the Israel-Gaza conflict than approve of it. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Paul Spelce, a 26-year-old Democratic-leaning independent voter and supporter of Palestinian statehood, is a member of a heavily religious Texas Republican family whose support for Israel is ingrained with their Christian faith. Spelce, of Austin, says he followed news of last month's Gaza war and the U.S. response closely on the radio as he helped deliver mail.

"I started paying a lot more attention," said Spelce, who said he disapproved of Biden's handling of the conflict and thinks the United States is too supportive of Israelis and not supportive enough of the Palestinians.

"I don't think Biden's word was that strong," Spelce said. "And I don't think, you know, this administration ... can actually do anything" regarding the conflict.

Overall, the poll shows that 29 percent of Americans say the U.S. is too supportive of the Israelis, 30 percent say it's not supportive enough and 36 percent say it's about right. In its approach toward the Palestinians, 25 percent say the U.S. is too supportive, 32 percent say it's not supportive enough and 37 percent say it's about right.

Broad but not unvarying support for Israel has been a tenet of U.S. domestic politics, as well as its foreign policy, for decades. Biden refrained from publicly criticizing Israel over civilian deaths and waited until the last days of fighting last month to openly press Israel to wind down its airstrikes on heavily populated Gaza.

The war highlighted differences among Democratic lawmakers and between some Democratic lawmakers and Biden on Israel policy. Dozens of Democrats in Congress called for Israel and Hamas to cease fire immediately, days before Biden openly did. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a progressive Vermont independent, urged the U.S. to be more even-handed in its approach to the conflict.

The poll found 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 40 percent who approve. While 75 percent of Republicans disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, so do 35 percent of Democrats.

"The new administration's policies, its posture toward Israel, it's totally different" to President Donald Trump's, said Christina Elliott, a 57-year-old Republican in the northeast Texas town of Atlanta. She said she disapproves of Biden's approach to the conflict and thinks the U.S. should be more supportive of Israelis and less of Palestinians.

"The Palestinians need to put just as much effort as Israel is" into peaceful relations, Elliott said, and added of Israel, "My God, they're surrounded by enemies."

Forty-two percent of liberal Democrats say they disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 31 percent of moderate and conservative ones.

That's compared with just 9 percent of Democrats who disapproved of how Biden is handling his job in general. Overall, Biden's job approval rating stands at 55%.

Since the cease-fire, Israel has transitioned to a new government that says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the U.S. for Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu, the former longtime prime minister, had openly challenged both Biden and President Barack Obama on U.S. policy in the Middle East and was seen as allying himself to Trump.

Some of the respondents in the survey, both Democratic and Republican, cited the comparatively limited timespan of the war — in comparison, 50 days of fighting in 2014 killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people on the Israeli side — in saying they approved of Biden's handling of the conflict.

The poll also shows just 19 percent of Americans think the U.S. should play a major role in finding a solution to the conflict, while 50 percent say it should play a minor role and 28 percent say it should play no role. Democrats and Republicans are largely in agreement on the size of the U.S. role in the conflict.

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, say they think there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, compared with 39% who say there is not a way. About 2 out of 3 Democrats think there is a way. Republicans are closely divided, with 50 percent saying there is and 45 percent saying there is not.

Patrick Diehl, another Democratic-leaning independent, cited U.S. offers to help rebuild Gaza buildings leveled by Israeli airstrikes, "so, I guess, they can be destroyed again. This seems to me kind of hapless."

"You know, we need a stronger position taken by the administration — pushing for actual change rather than continuation of this wretched situation," said Diehl, 74, of Tucson, Arizona.

Democrats Support Palestinians
In this June 19, 2021, file photo, Palestinians demonstrators wave the Palestinian flag during protest in Damascus gate just outside Jerusalem's Old City. A new poll on U.S. attitudes toward a core conflict in the Middle East finds about half of Democrats want the country to do more to support the Palestinians. /Mahmoud Illean/AP Photo