About half of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the United States believe the country is giving too much support of Israelis and not enough for Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, according to a poll that shows those views are dominant among young adults.
A recent poll from AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 49% of AAPI adults say the U.S. is “not supportive enough” of the Palestinians — significantly higher than the 36% of all U.S. adults who said that in a recent AP-NORC poll — and a similar percentage says the U.S. is “too supportive” of Israelis. The majority of Asian and Pacific Islander adults between the ages of 18 and 34 share these views. Those 35 and older were less likely to express the same opinions.
The poll is part of an ongoing project exploring the views of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, whose views can usually not be highlighted in other surveys because of small sample sizes and lack of linguistic representation.
Derek Pang, 54, of Austin, Texas, is among those who feels strongly that the U.S. is not doing enough to assist Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled territory. Pang, a Democrat who is an analyst for a senior living referral company, acknowledges Israel had a right to defend itself against the attacks by the militant group.
But the scope of Israel’s response “has caused unfathomable numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and more had not been done for the people when they were denied basic necessities — food, water, electricity and goods coming into the Gaza Strip,” said Pang, who is Chinese American. “I feel like the U.S. government, while their position was one of encouraging restraint, it really didn’t amount to much.”
Orrie Allen, 62, of Marysville, California, believes the U.S. has given the right amount of support for Palestinians and should actually provide more for Israel, and that going after Hamas should be the priority.
“It’s horrible what they (Hamas) did to these innocent people,” said Allen, who is Native Hawaiian and a Republican. “As far as Israel’s concerned, I think what they’re doing is fair. Their war, their thing. To me, we have no right to tell them what to do.”
Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted about 250 in southern Israel in the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war. More than 100 captives, mostly women and children, were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until the return of the remaining hostages.
In the past four months, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 27,000. The Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count but says most of the dead have been women and children. The fallout has also displaced 85% of the territory’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians and pushed one-quarter of residents to starvation.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at the University of California, Riverside, and founder of AAPI Data, calls the findings on the Israel-Hamas war “eye-opening.”
Ramakrishnan noted that in AAPI populations, there are likely a high number of people who can sympathize based on their own life experiences. Many either know a refugee or migrant who had to abandon their home country under harsh circumstances or they went through it themselves.
“Many Asian Americans come from colonized countries and may find receptive the kinds of statements by activists that Palestinians are living in a colonial situation today,” Ramakrishnan said.
Multiple AAPI advocacy groups in recent months have rallied on behalf of Palestinians and called for a cease-fire. Some Asian Americans see parallels with family members’ struggles with colonialism or genocide in Asian countries. The South Asian Network, a social justice organization uniting South Asians in Los Angeles, issued a statement in support of Palestinians in October and has since participated in several rallies and demonstrations.
Shakeel Syed, the group’s executive director, said the organization is reflecting the wishes of numerous South Asian Americans.
“We did receive calls and emails and questions from community members, and also other partners … to ask, ‘Hey, how come you haven’t guided us or said something to this effect,'” Syed said. “So, we thought it would be imperative for us to take a position so that not only we do what’s right, but also inspire others.”
He agreed it is often younger generations who have been voicing opposition to more U.S. aid for the Israeli government. Older immigrants tend to be more apolitical and try to be “neutral on a moving train.”
“This is very difficult to reconcile among the senior people. They privately talk about it, that this is very wrong, ethically, morally and politically, but not necessarily vocalize it in public spaces as much as younger generations.”
The survey also asked about Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States. When it comes to Jewish communities, 44% of AAPI adults say U.S. support is about right, while 26% say it’s not supportive enough.
Slightly less than half, or 45%, feel the nation is not supportive enough of Muslims. This view was also shared by most AAPI adults under age 35. An additional 38% said the U.S. is about right in its support of Muslim communities.
Thomas Lee, 42, of Long Island, New York, finds it difficult to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with anyone. There’s nothing you can say where you “don’t get yelled at,” said the Taiwanese American who switched his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat after the 2020 presidential election.
“For me, it’s hard because I’m very much in the middle and I see both sides. I can’t stand to take any side,” Lee said. He also thinks public officials have not spoken out against anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate as much as they have antisemitism. He said his ideal scenario would be more public dialogues where people can ask questions without shame.
“I think with more education, we would have less hate on both sides,” he said.
The poll of 1,091 U.S. adults who are Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders was conducted Dec. 4-11, 2023, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Amplify AAPI Panel, designed to be representative of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.