“Young people are in an information envelope of their own.”
Most Americans support Israel over Hamas and have given President Joe Biden some of his best job approval ratings for being a vocal ally of Israel and its right to respond to the terrorist attack of October 7, according to a Harvard CAPS / Harris poll. But almost half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 side with Hamas on many issues surrounding the dispute; almost a third of them deny that any of the militants shot, raped or beheaded Israelis during the attack—despite evidence to the contrary.
Mark Penn, Co-Director of the Harvard CAPS / Harris poll and Stagwell Chairman and CEO, spoke to Forbes about the findings. “A lot of people who are out there demonstrating don’t really support what Hamas’s objectives are,” says Penn. Many have simply conflated Hamas with Palestine and don’t even know that Hamas is committed to destroying the state of Israel.
“Rebellion has been has been typical at the university but we are seeing something very different,” says Penn. “Young people are in an information envelope of their own.”
“I’ve rarely seen an issue that is more generationally-focused than party-focused in the last few years,” says Penn, who cites social media as a possible factor in explaining the polarized views.
That said, some politicians are benefiting from taking a strong stance in support of Israel. Biden is one, with 58% of those polled saying they approve of the job he’s doing on Israel. One person who’s not benefiting, according to the poll, is Donald Trump because of what Penn describes as his inability to get back on the international stage on an issue that “should have been a layup for him.”
The person who did step up is GOP nominee and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who is now soaring in the polls, though still lagging behind Trump.
Says Penn: “She has the one thing that you always look for in presidential candidates in primaries: momentum.”
“The person to spend time on now is Nikki Haley,” says Penn. “She could flip the whole race in weeks. That’s pretty much how presidential politics plays out.”