How Anti-Israel Are College Students? What Poll Shows

Eighty percent of college students in the U.S. don’t approve of Israel’s handling of the war against Hamas in Gaza, according to an exclusive Newsweek/College Pulse survey.

The survey was developed by Newsweek and administered by College Pulse. The survey was conducted on May 4 and 5. The data comes from a sample of 804 undergraduates who are enrolled full time in four-year programs in 328 colleges and universities in the U.S.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents blame Israel for the war in Gaza, while just 20 percent blame the Hamas militant group, which launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7.

Wall at Portland University
Graffiti on a wall as pro-Palestinian demonstrators occupy the Millar Library on the campus of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, on April 30. Eighty percent of college students in the U.S. don’t approve of…

AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli death toll from the attack is estimated to be 1,200, predominantly civilians, with more than 200 Israeli soldiers killed since the Israel Defense Forces launched its ground offensive into Gaza. Deaths counted in Gaza by the Hamas-led government have reached nearly 30,000, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian and United Nations officials. More than 200 hostages were taken by Hamas the day of the attack.

Thirty-nine percent of the responders say they consider themselves “Pro-Palestinian.” Only 11 percent say they are “Pro-Israel.” Meanwhile, 40 percent checked “neither” to that question.

In recent weeks, higher education institutions, including Columbia University in New York City, have found themselves embroiled in a domestic debate over the war.

Students have led protests calling for colleges to divest from Israel over its actions since October 7. They have raised concerns about the number of Palestinian civilians killed in the Gaza Strip.

Columbia saw protests escalate in recent weeks and New York Police Department officers cleared encampments erected by student protesters. Last week, police arrested and charged 46 protesters at Columbia after they barricaded themselves inside the university’s Hamilton Hall.

On Monday, Columbia announced that its schoolwide graduation ceremony scheduled for May 15 will be canceled. Instead, Columbia plans to make school-level ceremonies and Class Days the “centerpiece of our Commencement activities,” according to a statement.

Last month, University of Southern California announced it would cancel its main graduation ceremony.

At the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), several students are facing expulsion calls after they were involved in a “racist” confrontation during a pro-Palestinian protest last week.

Since the October 7 Hamas attack, President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel and called on Hamas to release all remaining hostages. The administration has also pushed for a two-state solution that would allow Palestinians to live alongside Israelis.

Despite U.S. protests and an announcement by Hamas that the group would agree to a ceasefire proposal mediated by Qatar and Egypt, Israeli leadership is pressing forward with a planned offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Congress recently passed a $95 billion aid package, which included $26 billion for Israel and Gaza. About $4 billion of that total would be dedicated to replenishing Israel’s missile defense systems.

However, last week, the White House reportedly blocked an arms shipment bound for Israel as its plans ramped up for the invasion of Rafah.

As the November U.S. presidential election draws closer, there are some concerning signs in Newsweek’s poll for the incumbent Biden as he looks to cling to a key Democratic voting bloc.

Of the young responders, 30 percent say they will vote for Biden, while 20 percent say they will vote for Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. In the 2020 election, about 60 percent of people ages 18 to 29 voted for Biden in his victory over Trump.

“We have launched a more robust youth outreach campaign earlier than ever before,” Mia Ehrenberg, a communications spokesperson for the Biden-Kamala Harris campaign, told Newsweek on Tuesday via email. “Our operation has already invested seven figures in advertising across social media and will feature campus organizers in every battleground state, bolstered by 15 endorsing youth groups who are leveraging their networks and resources to mobilize young voters to reelect the president and vice president.”

In Newsweek‘s poll, 28 percent say they won’t be voting in November’s election, which nearly equals the support for Biden among the responders. Additionally, 15 percent say that Biden’s response to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the coming months could convince them not to vote. Another 8 percent say Biden’s response could get them to vote for Trump.

“The campaign will continue to show up and communicate with young voters on the issues they care about and, like he did in 2020, Joe Biden will beat Trump with the backing of young voters who know he’s kept his promises and is committed to delivering on the issues that matter most to them: to fight climate change, reform gun laws, reduce student loans, and build a country that moves us forward, not backward,” Ehrenberg added.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein landed at 6 percent among college students, while independent Cornel West picked up 3 percent. Both have been outspoken against Israel amid its fight against Hamas. Stein was among dozens arrested at a recent student protest at Washington University in St. Louis.

Thirteen percent checked the box for “other,” which may account for some support for independent candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., who wasn’t included as an option in Newsweek’s poll.

A Harvard Youth Poll released last month showed Biden with the support of 50 percent of registered 18- to 29-year-old voters to Trump’s 37 percent. The president has the support of 56 percent of likely voters, while Trump has the support of 37 percent. The Harvard poll also shows that if Trump is found guilty in any of his criminal trials, Biden’s lead among all young people will increase between eight to 18 points.

The Harvard poll also found that the 18-29 voting demographic is less concerned with the Gaza conflict, while being more concerned with inflation, health care and housing.

Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.