Democrats need young voters. That support isn't guaranteed amid Israel-Hamas war Young voters lean toward Democrats but amid the U.S. response to the Israel-Hamas war, many Gen Z and millennial Americans are trying to find where they fit in the party - if at all.

In a tale of two protests, a stark divide among young voters on the Israel-Hamas war

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1213754905/1213890434" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Over the past two weeks, people have gathered in Washington for two major marches - one organized by pro-Palestinian groups and one organized by pro-Israeli groups - all in response to the war between Israel and Hamas. NPR's Elena Moore went to both of them to talk with young voters, who stand more divided on this conflict than older generations.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Cease-fire now. Cease-fire now.

ELENA MOORE, BYLINE: On November 4, thousands of demonstrators gathered at Freedom Plaza, just minutes from the White House. They were there in support of the Palestinian people, calling for Israel to halt its military offensive in Gaza and pleading for President Biden to stop sending Israel aid. Twenty-three-year-old Prachi Jhawar stood in that crowd. She voted for Biden in 2020, but when she thinks about his 2024 chances, it's grim.

PRACHI JHAWAR: Gen Z cares so much about human rights as a movement, and to have our commander in chief not actually follow through with that and not support that is really disheartening.

MOORE: She isn't alone in feeling that way. According to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 50% of Gen Z and millennials sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israelis, which is much higher than any other age group. Plus, nearly half say Israel's military response has been too much. The war broke out on October 7 after Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people, according to Israel, which says it's attacking Gaza to destroy Hamas and rescue hostages it's holding. Since then, the health ministry in Gaza has reported more than 11,000 people have been killed there.

NUHA ADWAN: My entire family is in Gaza right now. I'm from Gaza. I was born in Khan Younis. All I know is Gaza will...

MOORE: That's 27-year-old Nuha Adwan. She voted for Biden in 2020, and now she says she's ashamed of that choice.

ADWAN: I think there's a split between whether or not we're going to be voting Republican or submitting a blank ballot, but Joe Biden will never, ever, ever get my vote ever again.

MOORE: Adwan's feelings are shared by other young people at the march, and it's something even more Arab and Muslim voters are wrestling with across the country, especially given both groups are reliable Democratic voting blocs.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Hebrew).

MOORE: At the March for Israel this week, crowds chant in Hebrew, let Israel live. Twenty-one-year-old Josh Levin was one of thousands walking around with his friends.

JOSH LEVIN: I feel like the Jewish people have always stood by every other minority group, and right now it seems like people aren't standing by the Jewish people.

MOORE: Over the past month and a half, Biden has met with both Jewish and Muslim leaders at the White House. It comes as the Justice Department has reported an increase in anti-Arab, Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents. To 23-year-old Sheindl Spitzer-Tilchin, she's thankful for Biden's response so far.

SHEINDL SPITZER-TILCHIN: I appreciate him standing up for Israel and understanding how atrocious and how scary this can be for college students, families everywhere in the world, not even just Israel.

CHANG: Back to Josh Levin - he doesn't like talking about politics, but things are different now. He previously leaned towards the Democratic Party, though at this moment, he doesn't see where he fits. And as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, he feels Israel is personal.

LEVIN: The far left doesn't support Israel, and Israel is an important part of, like, who I am as a person. Like, I don't know if I can really associate with that party anymore.

MOORE: And with less than a year until Election Day, it's unclear whether these divisions within the Democratic Party can be repaired or could further split voters before they head to the ballot box, where Democrats will be counting on their vote. Elena Moore, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF KENDRICK LAMAR SONG, "SING ABOUT ME, I'M DYING OF THIRST")

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.