Still Connected: American Jewish Attitudes about Israel

Published: 
August, 2010
 
To assess American Jewish views about Israel, a survey was conducted in June 2010, beginning two weeks after the Gaza flotilla incident, of more than 1,200 individuals who were identified as Jewish in a large national panel. The survey explores American Jewish attachment to Israel, in particular in the younger generation.
 

Research Methods

 
This report is based on a survey of Americans who identify as Jewish by religion or by other criteria. The sampling frame is a national panel of 50,000 U.S. households developed by Knowledge Networks (KN). The survey used random digit dialing (RDD) and address- based sampling (ABS) to achieve a representative sample. The survey was conducted in June 2010.
 
Jewish respondents were initially identified by a question about religion. In addition, two items were asked of panel members of no religion. In total, the sample eligible for analysis consisted of 1,243 respondents, of whom 1,089 were Jewish by religion and 154 were Jewish by other criteria.
 
The survey was fielded between June 15, 2010 and June 26, 2010 by KN via its web platform. All surveys were conducted via the web. The study completion rate from the sampling frame described above was 85.7 percent.
 
The results of the survey included the following (executive summary): 
  • Sixty-three percent of respondents felt “very much” or “somewhat” connected to Israel. Seventy-five percent agreed that caring about Israel is an important part of their Jewish identities. The findings, when compared to earlier surveys asking similar questions, indicate overall stability in American Jewish attachment to Israel over the past quarter-century.

  • Respondents under age 45 were less likely to feel connected to Israel but no less likely to regard Israel as important to their Jewish identities. Insofar as age differences are not new—younger respondents have been less attached to Israel in surveys conducted at regular intervals over the past 24 years— the study attributes such differences to stages of the lifecycle rather than generational turnover.

  • Political differences on the liberal-to conservative continuum were unrelated to measures of attachment to Israel. Liberals felt no less connected than conservatives and were no less likely to regard Israel as important to their Jewish identities. These observations hold true for both younger and older respondents.

  • Respondents under age 30 were more likely to have been to Israel than respondents age 30-59. Travel to Israel is an important factor strengthening attachment to Israel.

  • 52% of respondents characterized the current level of U.S. support for Israel as "about right"; 39% felt it was too little and 9% too much. Compared to a sample of likely U.S. voters who were recently asked the same question, American Jews were much less likely to regard the current level of U.S. support as too much.

  • 61% of respondents blamed "pro-Palestinian activists" for the flotilla incident; 10% blamed Israel. Compared to a sample of U.S. voters recently asked the same question, American Jews were more likely to blame the activists and less likely to blame the Israelis.

Conclusion

 
The findings of the present study challenge the view of a widening schism between American Jews and Israel. A majority of American Jews feels attached to Israel and the overall level of attachment has remained stable for nearly a quarter of a century.
Younger Jews are somewhat less attached in the current survey, but age differences most likely indicate that attachment to Israel increases over the life course rather than declines across the generations. Political ideology is not related to feelings of attachment to Israel, and events like the flotilla incident have thus far had no observable impact. Travel to Israel is a major factor in attachment, and younger Jews in the current survey are more likely to have visited Israel.
Updated: Aug. 29, 2010
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