In the weeks since the war between Israel and Hamas began, college students have emerged as a particularly vocal group with a range of opinions on the current war and ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.
At colleges across the country, protests, walkouts, and social media statements are leading to friction, criticism, and harassment. Meanwhile, critics have also questioned how knowledgeable students really are about the complex situation.
From October 27 to October 31st, Intelligent.com surveyed 609 current college students. We asked students how knowledgeable they feel they are about these issues, where they learn about these issues, which of the various parties involved they sympathize with, and how they’re voicing their opinions.
- 25% of college students say they’re very knowledgeable about current Israel-Hamas war
- 20% say they’re very knowledgeable about Israel-Palestine conflict
- 86% of college students have learned about these issues through social media
- One-third rarely or never fact-check information they consume
- 22% of college students say they sympathize with Hamas and 26% with the Israeli government
- 82% sympathize with Palestinian civilians and 72% with Israeli civilians
- Nearly 1 in 5 college students feel less safe on campus
1 in 4 College Students Claim to Be Very Knowledgeable about Israel-Hamas War
Roughly a quarter of U.S. college students are confident in their knowledge about the war between Israel and Hamas, with 6% saying they’re extremely knowledgeable, and 19% saying they’re very knowledgeable.
Nearly half of students, 48%, say they’re somewhat knowledgeable on the most recent conflict, while 23% are not very knowledgeable. Only 4% of students say they’re not knowledgeable at all.
“College students often feel compelled to stay informed about global events and to engage in meaningful discourse, both in and out of the classroom,” says Eric Eng, a college admission expert and the founder and CEO of AdmissionSight. “This sense of responsibility, particularly in our information age, could account for the number of students who claim to be ‘very knowledgeable’ about the situation. Yet, it’s worth noting that being informed doesn’t necessarily equate to a comprehensive understanding of such complex issues.”
9 in 10 learned about the conflict on social media
Social media is the most common source of information about these issues for students. Eighty-six percent of college students say they’ve learned about the conflict and/or current war on social media.
Among the 99% of respondents who say they’ve used social media in the past three weeks, 32% say they see information about these issues all the time on social media, while 41% say they do often. Additionally, 19% say they see information about these issues some of the time, while 6% say not very often. Only 1% of social media users say they never see related information on their channels.
Students also have learned about the Israel-Palestine conflict and Israel-Hamas war through news articles (62%), talking directly to others (58%), televised news (56%), and podcasts (17%).
Misinformation is common, particularly on social media, yet one-third say they don’t fact-check information they’re reading or listening to about these issues very often (23%) or at all (10%).
“With the vast amount of information accessible online, there’s always a risk of misinformation or bias, which can skew perceptions,” Eng says. “While it’s commendable that students want to form an opinion, it’s also crucial to promote critical thinking and ensure they’re discerning about their sources of information. This approach can empower them to form well-rounded, informed views rather than simply echoing popular opinions.”
1 in 5 College Students Sympathize with Hamas
Sympathy is highest for Palestinian civilians among college students. Eighty-two percent of students feel sympathy for Palestinian civilians, while 72% sympathize with Israeli civilians. However, twice as many students say they feel not much or no sympathy towards Israeli civilians compared to Palestinian civilians (12% compared to 5%).
Additionally, 22% of students say they sympathize with Hamas, while 26% say they sympathize with the Israeli government.
The majority of students say they have an opinion on the overall Israel-Palestine conflict, although their conviction varies. Forty-three percent have an extremely strong (11%) or strong (32%) opinion, while 36% only have a little bit of an opinion, 16% don’t have much of an opinion, and 5% have no opinion.
Similarly, 37% of students have an extremely strong (9%) or strong (28%) opinion specifically about the current Israel-Hamas war, while 40% have a little bit of an opinion, and 23% have little or no opinion.
However, the majority of students do demonstrate a willingness to listen and seek out opinions other than they’re own. Half of respondents will seek out different opinions all the time (14%) or often (36%), while 37% do so some of the time. Additionally, 24% say they listen to different opinions from their own all of the time, while 49% do often. Twenty-four percent will only listen to different opinions some of the time, 3% won’t very often, and less than 1% say they never will.
Half of Students Feel Pressure to Speak Out
When it comes to voicing their opinions about these issues, 45% of students feel a lot (12%) or some (33%) pressure to speak out, while 27% feel a little pressure and 27% don’t feel much pressure.
In practice, 10% of college students say they have attended protests or rallies related to these issues, while 14% say they have made a public statement.
Overall, 11% say they are extremely willing to speak up, while 21% are very willing, and 39% are somewhat willing to voice their opinions on these issues. On the other hand, 24% are not very willing to voice their opinion, and 5% aren’t willing to at all.
A number of students fear consequences for speaking up. One-third of students are extremely (12%) or very worried (22%) about potential consequences of speaking out about these issues, while 36% are a little bit worried.
The consequence students fear most is verbal assaults (62%), followed by losing friends (47%), being ‘canceled’ (42%), and physical assaults (37%). Among the 8% of respondents who chose ‘other,’ several say they’re afraid of spreading misinformation or becoming a target.
1 in 5 Students Feel Less Safe on Campus
The building tensions related to these issues have impacted students’ sense of safety and mental health.
Overall, 19% of respondents say they feel less safe on campus since the attacks on October 7th, while 73% say there’s been no change in their sense of safety. Eight percent say they feel safer. Additionally, nearly one-third (32%) of students say their mental health has worsened since that time.
A small number of respondents identify as Jewish (n=18) or Muslim (n=14). Seventy-eight percent of Jewish students say they feel less safe on-campus since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war, as do 7% of Muslim students. Fifty-six percent of Jewish students also say their mental health has worsened, as do 21% of Muslim students.
“Schools should provide safe spaces and resources for affected students, such as counseling services, and take stern action against discrimination or harassment. A focus on education about global issues and empathy could also play a pivotal role in promoting a safe and inclusive campus environment,” Eng says.
This survey was commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. Responses to this survey were collected October 27 to October 31, 2023. In total, 609 respondents aged 18-22 who currently attend a 4-year college completed the full survey. Respondents were randomly selected.
To avoid bias Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.
- How knowledgeable are you about the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict?
- Extremely knowledgeable (5%)
- Very knowledgeable (15%)
- Somewhat knowledgeable (54%)
- Not very knowledgeable (22%)
- Not knowledgeable at all (4%)
- How knowledgeable are you about the Israel-Gaza war?
- Extremely knowledgeable (6%)
- Very knowledgeable (19%)
- Somewhat knowledgeable (48%)
- Not very knowledgeable (23%)
- Not knowledgeable at all (4%)
- In what ways, if any, have you learned about these issues? [multi-select]
- Social media (86%)
- Books (6%)
- Podcasts (17%)
- Lectures (16%)
- News articles (62%)
- Televised news (56%)
- Talking directly to others (58%)
- I have not learned about these issues (2%)
- Other (1%)
- In the past three weeks, how many days have you used social media?
- Every day (84%)
- Most of the days (11%)
- Some of the days (3%)
- Hardly any of the days (1%)
- None (1%)
- Which social media platforms have you used in the past three weeks?
- TikTok (80%)
- Instagram (89%)
- Facebook (43%)
- Threads (5%)
- YouTube (81%)
- X (Twitter) (46%)
- None of the above (<1%)
- In the past three weeks, how often do you see information on social media about these issues?
- All the time (32%)
- Often (41%)
- Some of the time (19%)
- Not very often (6%)
- Never (1%)
- In the past three weeks, how often have you fact-checked information you’ve consumed about these issues?
- All the time (12%)
- Often (28%)
- Some of the time (27%)
- Not very often (23%)
- Never (10%)
- How much of an opinion, if any, do you have about the Israel-Gaza war?
- Extremely strong opinion (9%)
- Strong opinion (28%)
- A little bit of an opinion (40%)
- Not much of an opinion (17%)
- No opinion (6%)
- How much of an opinion, if any, do you have about the Israel-Palestine conflict as a whole?
- Extremely strong opinion (11%)
- Strong opinion (32%)
- A little bit of an opinion (36%)
- Not much of an opinion (16%)
- No opinion (5%)
- How much do you sympathize with… [matrix]
- Israeli civilians: A lot (49%) A little (23%) Not sure (16%) Not Much (9%) Not at all (4%)
- Palestinian civilians: A lot (65%) A little (17%) Not sure (13%) Not Much (3%) Not at all (2%)
- Israeli government: A lot (9%) A little (17%) Not sure (27%) Not Much (22%) Not at all (24%)
- Hamas: A lot (9%) A little (13%) Not sure (36%) Not Much (13%) Not at all (29%)
- How often do you listen to opinions that are different from your own?
- All the time (24%)
- Often (49%)
- Some of the time (24%)
- Not very often (3%)
- Never (1%)
- How often do you seek out opinions that are different from your own?
- All the time (14%)
- Often (36%)
- Some of the time (37%)
- Not very often (12%)
- Never (1%)
- How much pressure do you feel to speak out about these issues?
- A lot (12%)
- Some (33%)
- A little (27%)
- Not much (28%)
- At this moment, how willing are you to voice your opinion about these issues?
- Extremely willing (11%)
- Very willing (21%)
- Somewhat willing (40%)
- Not very willing (24%)
- Not willing at all (5%)
- How worried are you about potential consequences of speaking out about these issues?
- Extremely worried (12%)
- Very worried (22%)
- A little bit worried (37%)
- Not very worried (22%)
- Not worried at all (8%)
- What potential consequences are you worried about? [shuffle, multi-select]
- Losing job prospects (33%)
- Losing friends (47%)
- Losing social media followers (12%)
- Being “canceled” (42%)
- Verbal assaults (62%)
- Physical assaults (37%)
- Other (8%)
- Since October 7th, have you made a public statement related to these issues?
- Yes (14%)
- No (86%)
- Since October 7th, have you participated in any protests or rallies related to these issues?
- Yes (10%)
- No (90%)
- Since October 7th, do you feel more or less safe on campus?
- I feel much safer (3%)
- I feel a little safer (5%)
- No change (73%)
- I feel less safe (16%)
- I feel a lot less safe (3%)
- Since October 7th, has your mental health improved or worsened?
- Greatly improved (2%)
- Somewhat improved (9%)
- No change (58%)
- Somewhat worsened (27%)
- Greatly worsened (5%)