New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Approval of Biden's handling of Israel-Hamas war falls to new low amid campus protests

Just 26% approve of the president's approach to Gaza.

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President Biden called the Israel-Hamas war “one of the hardest, most complicated problems in the world” during his commencement speech at Morehouse College Sunday morning.

Yet a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that the war is now more than just a foreign policy problem for Biden — it’s becoming a bigger political problem as well.

The survey of 1,794 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 10 to 13, finds the president stuck in a lose-lose situation over Gaza. As pro-Palestinian protests rile college campuses and stoke cable news chatter, approval of his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has fallen to a new low (26%) while disapproval has risen to a new high (60%).

No other issue — not inflation, not immigration — tests as poorly for the president at this point.

Right after Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 attacks, Americans were evenly divided over Biden’s handling of the conflict (36% approve, 40% disapprove).

But in recent months, the president — a longtime Israel hawk and self-described “Zionist” — has shifted from unequivocally supporting Israel’s military campaign to trying to steer the U.S. ally toward an immediate ceasefire, in part by withholding some weapons.

In response, more Republicans than ever now reject Biden’s approach as “not pro-Israel enough” (54%) — while a significant portion of Democrats continue to see it as “too pro-Israel” (35%).

As a result, the share of Americans who characterize Biden’s approach to the issue as “about right” has declined from 33% in October to just 24% today.

Most Americans (85%) say they have heard or read at least a little about the “major protests against Israel’s war in Gaza [that] have spread on college campuses across the U.S.,” including 44% who say they have heard or read “a lot.”

But half (50%) say that they disapprove of the protests and that the protesters have gone “too far” (50%), a group driven largely by Republicans (75% disapprove, 72% too far). Among registered voters, the share who disapprove of the protests (54%) and say the protesters have gone too far (58%) is even higher. Significant numbers of voters think the protests have been “mostly violent” (34%) or that “all" (14%) or “most” (23%) of the protesters are antisemitic.

Meanwhile, far fewer Americans say they approve of the protests (25%) and that the protesters have been “about right” (21%) or “not gone far enough” (5%). (Those numbers are nearly identical among voters.)

Even among Democrats, fewer than half approve of the protests (41%) or think the protesters have been about right (33%). Just 6% of Democrats think the protestors haven’t gone far enough.

The upshot is that only a quarter of Americans (25%) think that what Biden has “said and done” about the protests has been about right. The rest say the president’s response has been “too supportive of the protesters” (24%) or “not supportive enough” (14%). A plurality (37%) aren’t sure.

Overall, just 27% of Americans approve of Biden’s approach to the protests, and 39% think former President Donald Trump would do a “better job” handling the issue (versus 36% for Biden).

For the record, the president has said "there's the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos."

“In moments like this, there are always those who rush in to score political points,” Biden continued. “But this isn’t a moment for politics. It’s a moment for clarity. So let me be clear: Violent protest is not protected, peaceful protest is.”

Actual attitudes among Americans toward the Israel-Hamas war are nuanced — and not dissimilar to Biden’s.

While the share who say Hamas is responsible for the current hostilities (56%) remains twice as big as the share who say Israel is responsible (27%), more Americans than ever before now think Israel’s military response in Gaza has gone too far (39%, up from 30% in November).

In contrast, just 19% of Americans say Israel’s response has been about right, and only 14% say it hasn’t gone far enough.

Likewise, a majority of Americans (51%) now say they would prefer the U.S. work to “broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas” rather than continue to “support Israel as it tries to defeat Hamas” (28%). Just a third (34%) want the fighting to continue “until Hamas is no longer in control of Gaza.”

Asked how they feel about “Israel invading Rafah — the southern Gaza city where more than 1 million Palestinians have taken refuge — in order to continue its campaign to destroy Hamas,” far more disapprove (41%), like Biden, than approve (26%).

Far more Americans also approve (46%) than disapprove (30%) of Biden’s decision to pause “the delivery of thousands of bombs and artillery shells to Israel to pressure Israel against launching an all-out assault on Rafah.”

Finally, 37% of Americans now support an independent Palestinian state — a new high, up from 29% in October 2023 and 27% in May 2021. Just 19% are opposed.

“As we look to the future, the only real solution is a two-state solution,” Biden said in March. “There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and democracy. There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live with peace and dignity.”

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,794 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 10 to 13, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.