How Church Attendance Affects American Attitudes Toward Israel

August 11, 2014

3 min read

Israel benefits from the fact that Americans remain in large part a religious people. But declining ‎religiosity bodes ill for the Jewish state.

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: ‎

  • A near-linear relationship exists between church attendance and outlook (see image 2, above): 66 percent of weekly or almost-‎weekly church-goers favor Israel, as do 58 percent of monthly and seldom church-goers and 46 percent ‎of never church-goers. Conversely, sympathy toward the Palestinians is also near-linear: 13 percent, 16 ‎percent, and 23 percent, respectively.
  • In both cases, any church attendance at all makes Christians more alike to each other vs. those who never ‎attend, a difference that has somewhat widened recently.

gallup poll church 1

  • When one looks at religious group (see image 3, above), Jews, Mormons, and non-Catholic Christians are the most pro-Israel; ‎Catholics match the national average; other religious groups and the non-religious are the least pro-Israel. ‎

gallup poll church 2

  • Political views and religiosity both influence Americans’ view — but as independent variables. ‎
  • Political views matter more than religiosity: “Nonreligious Republicans are more likely to sympathize with ‎Israelis than highly religious Democrats.”‎
  • Church attendance has more of an impact on Republican views than on Democratic ones. ‎
  • Israel brings together two very politically dissimilar groups, church-attending Republican Christians and ‎Jewish Democrats.‎

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 Muslim community, 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 of religiosity 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. ‎


Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel Hayom

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