By Jason Lange and Matt Spetalnick
U.S. public support for Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza is eroding and most Americans think Israel should call a ceasefire to a conflict that has ballooned into a humanitarian crisis, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Some 32% of respondents in the two-day opinion poll, which closed on Tuesday, said “the U.S. should support Israel” when asked what role the United States should take in the fighting. That was down from 41% who said the U.S. should back Israel in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Oct. 12-13.
The share saying “the U.S. should be a neutral mediator” rose to 39% in the new poll from 27% a month earlier. Four percent of respondents in the poll said the U.S. should support Palestinians and 15% said the U.S. shouldn’t be involved at all, both similar readings to a month ago.
Israel has long counted on the U.S., its most powerful ally, for billions of dollars a year in military aid and international diplomatic support. An erosion of U.S. public support could be a worrisome sign for the Middle Eastern country, which faces not only Hamas militants in Gaza but the Hezbollah Islamist movement in Lebanon and has conducted a long-running “shadow war” with Iran, its regional arch-foe.
The drop in U.S. support, seen in the new poll among both Democrats and Republicans and especially among older respondents, follows weeks of heavy Israeli bombardment and ground combat against Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for an Oct. 7 rampage by the Islamist militants in southern Israel. About 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken hostage.
Since then, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, around 40% of them children, in Israel’s assault, according to counts by health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The Gaza crisis has sparked an international outcry that has focused in recent days on the collapsing medical infrastructure in the crowded coastal enclave. Palestinians trapped inside Gaza’s biggest hospital were digging a mass grave on Tuesday to bury patients who died under Israeli encirclement.
Some 68% of respondents in the Reuters/Ipsos poll said they agreed with a statement that “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.”
About three-quarters of Democrats and half of Republicans in the poll supported the idea of a ceasefire, putting them at odds with Democratic President Joe Biden who has rebuffed calls from Arab leaders, including Palestinians, to pressure Israel into a ceasefire.
The Biden administration instead has urged Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, something Israel says it is doing.
Israel has so far rejected any talk of implementing longer pauses or a ceasefire, saying Hamas would only use that time to regroup and harden its positions.
In a potentially worrisome sign for Israel, just 31% of poll respondents said they supported sending Israel weapons, while 43% opposed the idea. The rest said they were unsure. Support for sending Israel weapons was strongest among Republicans, while roughly half of Democrats were opposed.
By comparison, 41% of people answering the poll said they backed sending weapons to Ukraine in its fight against a nearly 21-month-old Russian invasion, compared to 32% who were opposed and the rest unsure. When it came to Ukraine, support for sending weapons was stronger among Democrats.
While most moderate Democrats in Congress have long supported military assistance to Israel, some progressives in Biden’s own party have started to question whether there should be greater scrutiny as well as conditions attached to such aid.
U.S. officials have cautioned that funding for Ukraine military aid is running low as the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-majority Senate remain at odds over the Biden administration’s request for billions of dollars more in assistance to Kyiv.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online and nationwide, gathering responses from 1,006 U.S. adults. It has a credibility interval, a margin of precision, of about four percentage points.