More Americans Predictably Support Israel Rather Than Hamas in Gaza Fighting

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Social Media in This Case Seems to be Having No Measurable Results

ANALYSIS –
By Glynn Wilson –

More Americans predictably support Israel over Hamas in the latest fighting in Gaza, and those views have not changed measurably in spite of claims by some that the growth in use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter will turn the tide toward the Palestinians.

Americans’ views of the military actions of Israel and Hamas in the current conflict in Gaza have changed little over the past 10 days, according to the latest Gallup poll on the subject. The public remains divided over whether Israel’s actions have been justified, but they remain mostly critical of the attacks by Hamas.

“Although the latest explosion of violence has been going on for nearly a month prior to the temporary cease-fire agreed to on Monday, Americans appear to be paying no more or less attention to the conflict now than they were in late July,” Gallup reports, with only 60 percent of Americans admitting they are following the conflict “very” or “somewhat closely.”

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The advent of social media has changed the dynamics of the way news unfolds worldwide, some claim. While some observers have argued that this more real-time news, often including more graphic coverage of the fighting, destruction, injuries, and deaths in Gaza, could affect public opinion about the conflict, the evidence to support that hypothesis is just not there.

Not only is public opinion little different now than it was during a similar 2002 conflict, well before the blogging phenomenon took off in 2004, but just 19 percent of Americans report using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media to follow news of the conflict “a lot” or “some,” significantly lower than those who are using the Web in general, newspapers, or television news, including cable.

“The attitudes of those following the conflict on social media are only marginally different from the attitudes of those following the conflict using other sources of news and information,” Gallup says, meaning there is no significant statistical difference, “although many Americans may be exposed to multiple sources of news content.”

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This is a bit of a mischaracterization by Gallup, once again leading me to believe the staff still does not understand how this new technology works. People do not get their news from Facebook and Twitter. They get their news links from Facebook and/or Twitter.

But the data is there to support Gallup’s report, which makes it clear that those who say they are paying closest attention to the conflict are more likely to side with Israel and say its actions are justified, not the other way around, Gallup survey data shows.

“It follows that the four groups who use each of the four sources of information are also more likely than the average respondent to say Israel’s actions are justified,” Gallup says.

There is, however, a slight tendency for those using social media to be less likely than those using other media to say Israel’s actions are justified. But even among this group, Gallup shows, the percentage is only slightly higher than the average of national adults. Those using the Internet and social media are slightly more likely to say that Hamas’ actions are justified, but these differences are slight and not statistically significant.

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Implications

“Despite the vividness of news and social media images emanating from the conflict in the Middle East, Americans’ attention to the conflict and their attitudes about the actions on both sides have remained remarkably unchanged compared with almost two weeks ago, and also compared with results from the period of Israeli-Palestinian violence 12 years ago,” Gallup concludes. “This suggests that Americans may have responded to both crises in ways that reflect their basic attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians rather than the specifics of either conflict.”

In other words, Americans have always been pro Israel for some good and some not so good reasons. This data simply reflects a bias that already exists, and nothing that happens on Facebook is going to change that.

In general, Americans rate Israel much more favorably as a country than the Palestinian Territories, and are much more likely to say they sympathize with the Israelis than the Palestinians when asked to choose between the two sides.

Americans remain roughly divided on the issue of whether the actions of the Israelis against the Hamas are justified.

“While this is unchanged from previous updates, it is important to note that the pro-Israel sentiment on this measure is significantly below the percentage who routinely say that their sympathies are more broadly with the Israelis rather than the Palestinians in the Middle East,” Gallup concludes.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 2-3, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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