Election 2024

Minnesota poll: Voters split on U.S. support of Israel’s war with Hamas, but it’s not a top issue

a man holds a protest sign
Ed Higgins of Columbia Heights holds a sign supporting divestment from Israel during the June 1 DFL convention in Duluth. A new MPR News, KARE 11, Star Tribune Minnesota poll finds about 40 percent approve of Israel’s military action in Gaza, while 44 percent disapprove.
Erica Dischino for MPR News

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Voters are increasingly aware of what's happening in the Middle East and President Biden has faced some pushback in Minnesota, but the issue remains a low priority for voters heading toward November.

Minnesotans are divided over Israel’s military action in Gaza as it responds to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, but it doesn’t appear to be a deciding factor for them in their November presidential vote, new poll results released Wednesday morning show.

About 41 percent of respondents said they approved of Israel’s military action in Gaza, while 44 percent disapproved and 15 percent weren’t sure, according to the poll commissioned by MPR News, KARE 11 and the Star Tribune.

Voters are increasingly aware of what’s happening in the Middle East, and a significant number of Democratic voters in Minnesota have pushed back against President Joe Biden’s decision-making around Israel.

In March, nearly 19 percent of Minnesota Democratic primary voters voted “uncommitted,” a move widely viewed as a protest by Democrats against Biden’s Middle East decision-making.

“Let’s try and negotiate a peaceful-type ending,” said poll respondent Bernadette Hebert, a retiree from Apple Valley. “I understand the anger and the hurt that Israel felt when they did that to their people. But I think it's gone a little too far and too much.”

Hebert, though, said it’s not a tipping point issue for her as she weighs her presidential vote. She said her No. 1 issue in November is protecting democracy. 

That’s a sentiment widely reflected in the poll of 800 likely Minnesota voters conducted last week. Asked to identify their top issue in the 2024 election from a list, “protecting democracy” was at the top followed by “the economy and jobs” and “immigration.” 

One percent listed the Middle East conflict at the top of their list. 

Still, observers say the situation remains fluid and the importance of the Israel-Hamas war could shift in voters’ minds over the coming months.

“We’re separated by thousands of miles. Nevertheless, people have a very visceral, emotional, deep connection to Israel,” said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Those polled were also asked if the United States is doing too much, too little or about the right amount to support Israel in its war with Hamas: 32 percent said too much, 20 percent said too little while 37 percent said the right amount.

Similarly, asked if the U.S. is doing too much, too little or about the right amount to help protect Palestinian civilians caught in Israel’s war with Hamas,18 percent said too much, 32 percent said too little while 45 percent said the right amount. 

The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy left no option for respondents to say the U.S. should have no involvement.

Arash Davari, a professor of political theory at the University of Minnesota, said it’s important to understand how these kinds of questions are asked to voters and what’s left out.

If voters are asked for their views on the Middle East essentially starting on Oct. 7, “then the thing they’re being asked to consider is whether or not military action is appropriate in relation to something that is cast as morally evil,” Davari said, noting the decades of violence against Palestinians.

Overall, the live-interview poll found Biden was preferred by nearly 45 percent of respondents compared to about 41 percent for former President Donald Trump in the race for president. That’s considered a dead heat given the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Editor’s note: For more poll details and methodology around the poll, check out MPR News’ sister organization, the APM Research Lab.