What do college students really think of the war in Gaza and the campus protests?

May 8th, 2024 by Tom Lynch

They’re ambivalent.

College protests against Israel’s war in Gaza are dominating headlines. But only a sliver of students are participating or view it as a top issue, according to a new Generation Lab representative survey of 1,250 college students.

Generation Lab is a data intelligence company studying and measuring attitudes and views of American youth on current issues and policies, such as key social, political, economic, and health trends. The firm works with NBC News, the New York Times, and other leading media organizations.

In the survey released this week, the firm found that college students, on the whole, rank the war in Gaza low on a list of serious issues they care about, with only 13% saying the issue is important to them.

Digging deeper, the survey reveals only a small minority (8%) of them have participated in either side of the protests.

Moreover, three times as many college students blame Hamas for the current situation in Gaza than they do President Biden. Specifically, 34% blame Hamas, while 19% blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 12% blame the Israeli people, and 12% blame Biden.

The survey also found an overwhelming majority (81%) of students support holding protesters accountable, agreeing with the notion that those who destroyed property or vandalized or illegally occupied buildings should be held responsible by their university.

A majority (67%) of the surveyed students also say occupying campus buildings is unacceptable and 58% agree it’s unacceptable to refuse a university’s order to disperse.

The student demonstrations—which have included on-campus encampments and building takeovers—have been met with suspensions, expulsions, arrests, police force and canceled commencement ceremonies.

So far, Columbia University and the University of Southern California have cancelled graduation commencement exercises. A protester disrupted graduation ceremonies at Northeastern University, but the event went on, anyway.

This senior class is the same class that lost its high school graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many will once again get their college diploma by mail, although Columbia plans on holding small ceremonies at each of its four undergraduate schools and 16 graduate schools.

CNN interviewed one of the protesters, a senior, at USC. She was asked about the commencement cancellation, and replied, “A cancelled commencement is a small price to pay for Palestinian freedom.” Given that the Generation Lab survey found the war in Gaza ranked 9th on a list of important issues to college students, this comment seems remarkably hubristic.

The Generation Lab survey has a margin of error is +/- 2.7 percentage points.

Presented without (much) comment

On NBC’s Meet The Press this past Sunday, host Kristen Welker tried seven times to get Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to say if he would accept the results of the upcoming election if Donald Trump lost. Scott, who is believed to be doing all in his power to become Trump’s running mate and Chief Sycophant, refused to do so. I give Welker points for a good try.