Americans are broadly supportive of protecting the right to speak freely about Israel and Palestine, but draw the line at speech that calls for violence against Jews or Muslims, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

  • Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults (73%) are against calling for violence against Jews, Pew found.
  • The same share of U.S. adults (73%) is against calling for violence against Muslims.
  • Smaller majorities of U.S. adults say Americans should be able to speak out for or against Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or for or against Palestinians having their own state, even when those opinions offend others.

Pew’s report comes amid a widespread debate over when commentary on or protests tied to the Israel-Hamas war cross the line and become antisemitic or Islamophobic. Colleges and universities are among the institutions wrestling with that question right now.

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Discrimination against Jews and Muslims

Many Americans who took part in the survey likely had recent real-life acts of violence in mind as they considered Pew’s questions about free speech.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, there’s been a rise in suspected hate crimes involving the Jewish and Muslim communities, as FBI Director Christopher Wray explained during a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee in December.

“We’ve been opening I think 60% more hate crimes investigations post-Oct. 7 ... compared to the comparable period pre-Oct. 7,” Wray said, according to The Hill.

Pew’s survey identified growing concern about discrimination against Jews and Muslims.

  • “The share of U.S. adults who say there is a lot of discrimination against Jews in our society has doubled in the last three years,” Pew reported, highlighting the jump from 20% in 2021 to 40% today.
  • The share of U.S. adults who say there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims grew five percentage points over the same time period, from 39% to 44%, Pew found.

Within the Jewish and Muslim communities, the share of adults who believe there is “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims is even higher. But few Muslims say there is a lot of discrimination against Jews.

  • More than half of Jews (57%) and Muslims (67%) say there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in our society today, Pew reported.
  • While 72% of Jews say there is a lot of discrimination against Jews, just 17% of Muslims say the same.

Pew also asked specifically about whether the Israel-Hamas war has led to a surge in discrimination.

  • Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults, including 89% of Jews and 36% of Muslims, said that discrimination against Jews has increased since the start of the war.
  • Fewer Americans (38%) said that discrimination against Muslims has increased since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel in October, Pew found.

Pew found that 27% of Muslims and 26% of Jews surveyed said they’ve stopped talking to someone in person or blocked someone online due to what they’d been saying about the war.

Pew’s survey was conducted in February among 12,693 U.S. adults. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.