More than Choosing Sides: June Update

  • Insight
  • 12 June 2024

In November 2023, More in Common conducted the most in-depth research of British public opinion on Israel and Palestine since Hamas’ attacks on 7th October. In the months since, we have continued to monitor the situation with ongoing tracker polling, and new lines of questioning. 

Here are our five key findings:

1. Top-line public opinion on the conflict has not changed much: Most britons have still not chosen a side in the conflict

As with in November, the majority of the public still do not take a side in a conflict. While sympathies for Palestine have increased slightly and those with Israel have fallen slightly, all these changes are within the statistical margin of error. Far more people say that they sympathise with both sides equally, neither side, or are not sure which side they sympathise with more.

2. Polarisation by age does not seem to have increased, but other groups are gradually polarising

In May we identified that younger adults were much more likely to say they sympathise with the Palestinian side of the conflict than older adults, who were more likely to sympathise with the Israeli side.

We find that this polarisation by age has remained high, although not increased. Every age group now roughly feels the same about the conflict as they did in June 2024.

Looking at particularly engaged groups however, there have been shifts. Most significantly, Progressive Activists, the most left leaning and politically engaged of More in Common’s British Seven Segments of the population have become significantly more pro-Palestine since the start of the conflict. Alongside Civic Pragmatists they are the only group whose views have changed significantly.

3. The public are still worried about the impacts of the conflict, even if it is no longer top of mind

The public are still worried about the impact of the conflict, although concerns have fallen slightly since November.

As in November, the risk that the conflict escalates, and concerns about Palestinians are top of the public’s worries. 

But concerns for Israeli civilians have fallen from third place to the bottom of the list, whereas concerns about Islamist extremism have risen relative to the public’s other worries.

4. The public want the war to stop, but support for a ceasefire has conditions

Top line polling repeatedly shows that the public want a ceasefire in Gaza, including many of those people who say they do not take a particular side in the conflict. In focus groups the public’s desire for peace in the region is also very clear.

However, support for a ceasefire does not mean that the public would support a ceasefire on any terms, regardless of its consequences. For example, 48 per cent of the public say that the release of hostages needs to be a condition of the cease fire, compared to only 20 per cent who say it does not.

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5. This summer’s campus protests have cut through, and people are worried about this country’s Jewish students

In May this year we asked a new set of questions to identify the public’s perceptions of the protests that had sprung up on university campuses. We found that the stories had cut through, and that the protests made the public worried about the safety of Jewish students. 43 per cent of the public say that anti-Israel protests on campus threaten the safety of Jewish students, compared to 19 per cent who say they do not. 

And a quarter say that they think universities are unsafe places for Jewish students and 15 per cent say the same for Muslim students.

That said, protests are not among the top issues that the public see as facing students. Instead, students and the public more broadly think that cost of living, tuition fees, and mental health, are bigger problems for students.

The public take a balanced view on how universities should respond to the conflict. They do not want universities to simply accept protestors’ demands in full (only 6% say this), nor do they want universities to shut down protest completely (only 28% say this).

Despite this, the two “sides” of the debate are polarised on this. Those on the Israeli side are more sympathetic to the idea of universities stopping the protests, whereas those on the Palestinian side are more likely to want universities to open negotiations with protestors.