How Church Attendance Affects American Attitudes toward Israel
by Daniel Pipes
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What role does religion play in American attitudes towards Israel? An analysis by Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief of Gallup Inc., reviews 14 annual Gallup polls from 2001 to 2014 in which respondents answer the same question, "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?" The numbers offer insights different from what one might expect.
The study starts with two basic facts: First, looking at the whole sample of about 14,000 American adults, 59 percent answer that they have more sympathy for Israelis and 16 percent say they have more sympathy for Palestinians, a ratio of almost 4-to-1. Second, Newport finds that "Religious Americans are significantly more likely than less religious Americans to be sympathetic to the Israelis," confirming what common sense already tells us.
That said, his numbers contain several noteworthy subtleties:
Some reflections on these figures:
(1) Although religiosity helps explain the difference between the United States and Europe, politics has more importance: that even irreligious Americans favor Israel 2-to-1 marks them as very different from their European counterparts.
(2) Given the prominence of Jewish anti-Zionists in the academy, the media, and in Hollywood, the 93-to-2 Jewish support for Israel comes as a surprise, suggesting that the most accomplished and articulate Jews tend to be disproportionately hostile to Israel. Perhaps this is their way of fitting into the leftist institutions where they work and hope to succeed?
(3) One wishes the "Protestant" category provided further details on the various denominations. How much do the mainline churches differ from the evangelical ones? Do the adherents of anti-Israel churches follow their leadership in this regard? Are there important changes over time? Gallup should inform us about this in the future.
(4) Muslims are lumped in with other non-Christians but have a unique profile. In Canada, whose Muslim population differs substantially from the American one, pro-Israel Muslims number about 20 percent. I estimate that pro-Israel American Muslims number half that percentage, or less. Also of note: religiosity among Muslims has the opposite influence than among Christians, making them less pro-Israel.
In conclusion, Israel benefits from the fact that Americans remain in large part a religious people. But declining religiosity bodes ill for the Jewish state.
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