Americans blame Hamas over Israel for the fighting in Gaza by a roughly 2-1 margin, according to a new poll, which shows a significant partisan divide in U.S. reaction.
About 4 in 10 Americans say that Hamas is most responsible for the violence while 2 in 10 put most of the responsibility on Israel, the new survey by the Pew Research Center shows. An additional 14% of respondents blamed both sides and about 3 in 10 said they did not know.
The survey also showed that about 1 in 4 Americans said they thought Israel had gone "too far" in its response to the conflict -- almost exactly the same percentage who took that view in previous Gaza fighting in 2009 and in Israel's 2006 battle with the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
About half of Americans said they thought that Israel's response in the current fighting had been about right (35%) or had not gone far enough (15%).
Those results are in keeping with long-standing trends in U.S. public opinion, which has consistently sided with Israel, particularly during Middle Eastern wars. The one exception, where support for Israel dropped significantly, was during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s.
Although Israel continues to command greater sympathy in the U.S., the new survey showed some significant divisions along partisan and generational lines. Younger Americans and Democrats were more closely divided in their opinions about the conflict than were older Americans and Republicans.
Democrats split almost evenly on which side bore the greater responsibility for the current violence, with 29% blaming Hamas and 26% Israel and 18% citing both. Republicans overwhelmingly blamed Hamas, 60% to 13%, with 10% citing both sides.
Not surprisingly, given those numbers, Republican members of Congress mostly have offered unstinting support for Israel's military actions. The Obama administration has repeatedly said it supports Israel's right to defend itself but has also raised concerns about the number of casualties among Gaza residents, whose death toll has exceeded 1,000, and has tried to negotiate a cease-fire.
Generational and racial divisions reflect the partisan gap. On the question of whether Israel has gone too far, 29% of those younger than 30 and 22% of those older than 65 said it had done so. Just 22% of whites, but 36% of blacks and 35% of Latinos said Israel had gone too far.
Americans 65 and older were more than twice as likely to say they were paying close attention to news of the Gaza fighting than were those ages 18 to 29.
Among those who identify as liberal Democrats, 44% said Israel's actions have been excessive, while 33% said they had been about right and 7% said they had not gone far enough. Among conservative Republicans, only 10% said Israel had gone too far, 51% said its actions had been about right, and 21% said Israel had not gone far enough.
The Pew survey is based on July 24-27 telephone interviews with 1,005 adult Americans. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
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