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Iowans are divided almost evenly over their views of Israel’s actions in its ongoing war with the militant group Hamas in Gaza, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.

Among all Iowans, 42% say they think the way Israel is carrying out its response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack is acceptable, while 40% say Israel’s response is unacceptable.

That includes 15% of Iowans who say Israel’s approach has been completely unacceptable, 25% who say it has been mostly unacceptable, 26% who say it has been mostly acceptable, 16% who say it has been completely acceptable.

Another 18% are not sure.

The numbers come as the war between Israel and Hamas enters its ninth month and the death toll has climbed to more than 37,000, according to local health authorities. The United Nations estimates more than 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza.

Democratic President Joe Biden pledged his full support to Israel after the Hamas attack, which killed about 1,200 people. The U.S. has supplied Israel with weapons and aid packages, and Biden has recently pushed for a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas.

But the president faces pressure on both sides of the political spectrum from those who want him to stand strong behind the ongoing Israeli offensive and those who believe he should more forcefully condemn what they say is a genocide in Palestine.

Members of Biden’s own party marked their frustration by casting protest votes in the Democratic presidential primaries, and young people staged protests on college campuses throughout the spring.

It is likely to be a defining issue in the 2024 presidential race, particularly as Biden seeks to shore up enthusiasm and support on the left going into November.

The poll of 806 Iowa adults was conducted June 9-14 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The questions asked only of 632 likely voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Few Iowans approve of Joe Biden’s handling of the war

According to the poll, just 23% of Iowans approve of Biden’s approach to the war while 64% disapprove.

Among Democrats, 51% approve and 36% disapprove. For Republicans, 10% approve and 83% disapprove.

Dennis Burds, a 64-year-old Monticello resident and poll respondent, disapproves of how Biden has handled the issue. He said he thinks the president is “pandering” for the support of pro-Palestinian voters in places like Detroit, Michigan, and has not stood firmly behind Israel.

“I think he forgot who attacked who that day,” Burds said. “They should just get the job done and stand behind them until (they can) eliminate all threat.”

Burds, an independent voter who registered with Republicans to caucus for Nikki Haley in January, said he thinks the way Israel has handled the war is “completely acceptable.”

“You’re going to have war,” Burds said. “You’re going to have casualties, especially when they hide behind civilians and stuff like that.”

He said he plans to vote for former Republican President Donald Trump, who he thinks would do a better job managing the situation.

“We didn’t have no wars when Trump was in office. Everything was pretty peaceful,” Burds said. “And I truly believe that Ukraine would have never gotten attacked either. People are scared of Trump.”

Discontent among Democrats, young people over Israel’s actions in Gaza

A majority of Democrats, 65%, say Israel’s actions are unacceptable. Another 23% say they are acceptable, and 12% are not sure.

For Republicans, the inverse is true, with 60% saying Israel’s actions are acceptable, 21% saying they are unacceptable, and 19% saying they’re not sure.

Roan Marcy, a 20-year-old North Liberty resident and poll respondent, said he plans to vote for Biden in November, although he has serious hesitations.

“The first and foremost thing is I would really appreciate it if he stopped funding the genocide in Palestine and being complacent in all that,” Marcy said. “And I’m sure a lot of my friends feel the same way. That’s why a lot of us youngins’ are hesitant to vote for him, because it’s like, if we vote for him, we’re still voting for genocide in Palestine.”

According to the poll, those younger than 35 are more likely than those in any other age group to say Israel’s actions are unacceptable.

Fifty-three percent of those younger than 35 say Israel’s actions are unacceptable.

Young people also disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza by higher margins than any other age group with 78% disapproving and 9% approving.

Marcy said he feels like he needs to vote for Biden as the “lesser of two evils” against Trump.

“As a trans person living in a red state … the more red leadership we have, the more likely my rights and safety are going to be on the line,” he said. “So, I feel like I’m more grasping at straws instead of making a well-informed, well-thought-out decision” about which candidate to support.

Among those who say they will vote for Biden in November, a strong majority — 70% — say Israel’s actions are unacceptable, compared to just 22% who say they are acceptable.

Among those who say they will vote for Trump, 64% believe Israel’s actions are acceptable, 19% say they are not, and 17% are not sure.

For those who say they will vote for someone other than the two major-party candidates, a plurality believe Israel’s actions are unacceptable, 47% to 30%. Another 24% are not sure.

Catholic, evangelical Iowans more likely to support Israel’s actions

The numbers also break down along religious lines, with greater shares of those who identify as Catholic or evangelical finding Israel’s actions acceptable.

Among Catholics, 54% say Israel’s actions are acceptable while 29% say they are not.

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And among evangelicals, 50% side with Israel and 29% say they disagree with the country’s actions.

But for those who cite no religious affiliations, 62% believe Israel’s actions are unacceptable and 22% say they are acceptable.

Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Des Moines Register. She is also covering the 2024 presidential race for USA TODAY as a senior national campaign correspondent. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.

About the Iowa Poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted June 9-14, 2024, for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 806 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.

Questions based on the sample of 806 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit and, on digital platforms, links to originating content on The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Poll: Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Biden stance on it divide Iowans

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