By Janelle Wong, Senior Researcher, AAPI Data

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has riveted the world, and especially so since the Hamas-led attack in Israel on October 7, 2023 that killed over 700 civilians and the subsequent Israel-led war in Gaza that has killed over 25,000 Palestinians and displaced nearly 2 million people. Since October 2023, media and news feeds have been sharply focused on stories covering American views toward U.S. involvement in Israel and Gaza.

A majority of polls take a broad look at the U.S. general population, which consistently find clear divides on this issue, mostly along ideological and generational lines. Dive a bit deeper, however, and limited polls suggest that white and “non-white” Americans hold distinct views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Missing, however, are the voices of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, who are the fastest-growing racial groups in the United States.

A newly published AAPI-Data/AP-NORC Poll sheds greater light on public sentiment on this issue, highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) perspectives on the conflict.

Bar graph chart illustrating AAPI adult perspectives on the U.S. support for Israelis and Palestinians.

The AAPI-Data/AP-NORC Center Poll reveals that AAPIs hold distinct views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict compared to U.S. adults more generally. When asked, “Thinking about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, do you think the United States is too supportive, not supportive enough, or about right” in support of “the Israelis” and “the Palestinians,” AAPI respondents are more likely than the general U.S. adult population to say they think the U.S. is too supportive of the Israelis and not supportive enough of the Palestinians. Nearly half (48%) of AAPI adults contend that the U.S. is too supportive of Israel, compared with less than one-third (32%) of American adults in general. On the flip side, while 1 in 4 of all American adults (25%) say that the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Israelis, only 15% of AAPIs say the same.

With regard to support for the Palestinians, nearly 1 in 5 (17%) say that the U.S. is too supportive of the Palestinians, compared to nearly 1 in 3 (29%) of American adults in general. Lastly, nearly half of  AAPI adults (49%) respond that the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Palestinians compared to just 31% of American adults in general.

What’s the story behind these numbers? The answers may have to do with how some AAPIs view connections between AAPI and Palestinian religious identities and historical experiences.

First, many AAPIs identify as Muslim and Asian Americans make up a significant proportion of Muslims in the U.S. As such, attention to the anti-Muslim sentiment that accompanies U.S. involvement in the Middle East is acute among many segments of the Asian American community, including mainstream civil rights organizations like the Asian Law Caucus

Second, some AAPI organizations see connections with Palestinians as displaced peoples. For example, the Southeast Asian advocacy organization SEARAC published a statement on November 8, 2023 calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The statement reads in part: “As an organization founded in the aftermath of war, genocide, and displacement nearly 45 years ago, SEARAC denounces these atrocities, and we urgently call on the Biden Administration to support an immediate ceasefire and to initiate direct negotiations for the release of all civilian hostages. As part of the legacy of refugees who risked their lives to safeguard the lives of their loved ones, we demand that our country’s diplomatic efforts prioritize the protection, safety, and well-being of survivors by providing sufficient international aid.”

Similarly, the advocacy organization Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) posted a statement of solidarity with Palestinians on November 10, 2023 that stated, “As Indigenous communities, we grieve alongside those who bear immoral and violent realities of colonization, apartheid, and genocide. We firmly denounce such harms of all forms. We call upon other advocates and social justice organizations to denounce settler-colonialism violence and demand support that will enable Palestinians to thrive.”

Finally, support for Palestinians is deeply rooted in Asian American Studies as a professional field. In 2013, the Association for Asian American Studies became the first academic association in the U.S. to join the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement in support of Palestinian human rights. 

At the same time, data on AAPI public opinion highlights the complexities of AAPI perspectives on Israel and conflicts in the Middle East. It is important to note that the sentiment that the U.S. is expressing “too much support” for Israelis can still be consistent with views expressing overall support for Israel. In the same survey by AAPI Data and AP-NORC, respondents were also asked about their views about various countries as allies or adversaries of the U.S.

Bar graph chart illustrating AAPI adult perspectives on the countries of Japan, Israel, India and China as an ally, partner, rival or adversary to the U.S. Header text: AAPI adults are more likely to view Israel as a partner or ally to the U.S. than a rival or adversary.

The results indicate that 36% of AAPI respondents view Israel as an ally of the United States, while 40% view Israel as a partner of the United States that doesn’t necessarily share the same interests or values. These results are similar to results found in another AP-NORC survey conducted in August of 2023 involving the general U.S. population. By contrast, a much smaller proportion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders view China as an ally (5%) or as a partner (23%) of the United States. Together, these survey results suggest a baseline of general support for Israel among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that also includes an assessment that the United States is doing too much to support Israelis and not enough to support Palestinians in the current conflict. 

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The new data provide an opportunity to better understand variations — some surprising — within the AAPI community on Israel-Palestine.[/perfectpullquote]

The new data provide an opportunity to better understand variations — some surprising — within the AAPI community on Israel-Palestine. For instance, while polls of the general U.S. adult population show divisions along partisan lines, with a majority of Republicans backing increased U.S. support of Israel and a majority of Democrats preferring leaning toward neither side, fewer than one-third of AAPI Democrats and Republicans say the U.S. is “not supportive enough” of Israel. We also observe that Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) are about twice as likely to say that the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel compared with Asian Americans and that there are smaller differences across the largest Asian American national origin groups on U.S. involvement in support of Israel.

While polls of the national adult population show older people advocating for more U.S. support for Israel in the war, the AAPI-Data/AP-NORC Poll does not show strong or consistent patterns on increasing support for Israel by age. Some of these findings, especially with regard to lack of a strong partisan divide, call for deeper analysis and more data collections to confirm that the results hold true across time and across surveys.

These survey results give us important insights on a few, critical dimensions of the Israel-Gaza conflict, and we need to ask more questions to dig deeper. General population polls too often fail to include large enough numbers of AAPIs to gauge their position on pressing issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Efforts to lift up those views are critical for democratic representation of groups like Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who represent two of the fastest growing voter groups in the country.

Bar graph chart of public opinion data of AAPI adults illustrating the key stat that 49% of AAPI adults indicate the U.S. is not supportive enough of Palestinians.

Methodology:

The nationwide study was conducted by The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and AAPI Data from December 4-11, 2023, using the Amplify AAPI Monthly survey drawing from NORC’s Amplify AAPI® Panel designed to be representative of the U.S. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander household population. Online and telephone interviews were offered in English, the Chinese dialects of Mandarin and Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Korean with 1,091 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders aged 18 and older living in the United States. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points. 

More information about the AAPI Data / AP-NORC survey series can be found at https://apnorc.org/topics/aapi-data/ or https://aapidata.com/surveys/

Correction 2.1.24 at 9:54pm ET: 

A previous version of this post contained some errors regarding support for Israelis within AAPI communities with respect to differences by age and partisanship. These errors have been corrected for accuracy.