American Jews prefer Muslims to the Christian right

Yesterday I wrote an article about a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute on Jewish attitudes towards the 2012 presidential race and how issues such as Iran and Israel factor in. But there’s some other interesting information to be gleaned (keeping in mind that it’s an Internet-based survey with a 5% margin of error which had to heavily re-weight the Orthodox and unaffiliated to get a proportion reflective of the national Jewish population).
For one thing, Jews have warmer feelings towards Muslims and Mormons than the Christian right. None of the groups cracked the warm feelings half of the favorability scale, where 100 equals very warm feelings and 0 equals very cold feelings. But Mormons came close with an average score of 47 out of 100 points and Muslims behind that at 41 out of 100 points. Jews rated the Christian right at an average of just 21 out of 100.
Assessing Israel’s problems using a different type of scale, another religious group – the ultra-Orthodox – and its control of religious life in the Jewish state was seen as a major problem by 53% of those surveyed and a minor problem by 36%. Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict got the highest ratings, with the latter seen by the most people as a major problem (90%) and the former seen as a major problem by 83% of those surveyed.
The poll also yielded some generational divides on the importance of different Jewish experiences. For older Jews (60-plus years), 68% see the Holocaust as very important; for younger Jews (18-39) only 41% do. For older Jews, being a religious minority in America is seen as very important by 36%; it is viewed similarly by just 24% of younger Jews. And the immigrant experience is very important for 39% of older Jews but only 19% of younger Jews.
And just in time for Passover, the survey asked the pollees a few questions about the Jewish holidays. Queried on what was the most important Jewish holiday to them personally, Yom Kippur won with 43% of the vote, with Passover next at 25%. Hanukkah and Rosh Hashanah each claimed 10%. And contacted as they were in the thick of the run-up to Passover, 68% of US Jews said they planned to attend a seder. Twenty-seven percent said they were skipping.
To tie it back to the political questions that dominated the earlier part of the survey, the pollsters split the numbers by party affiliation. Only 22 percent of Democrats won’t be breaking matza on Friday night, compared to 36% of Republicans. If you need something to ponder as you count the minutes until the food is served at your seder, try squaring that figure with the notion that the Orthodox are considered to be more Republican-leaning than the rest of the American Jewish population.
- Hilary Leila Krieger