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How Church Attendance Affects American Attitudes Toward Israel

avatar by Daniel Pipes

A Presbyterian church. Photo: Jhowey.

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

What role does religion play in American attitudes towards Israel? An analysis by Frank Newport, the editor-in-“Žchief of Gallup Inc., reviews 14 annual Gallup polls from 2001 to 2014, in which respondents answer the same “Žquestion: “In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the “ŽPalestinians?” The numbers offer insights different from what one might expect. “Ž

The study starts with two basic facts: First, looking at the whole sample of about 14,000 American adults, 59 “Žpercent answer that they have more sympathy for Israelis and 16 percent say they have more sympathy for “ŽPalestinians, a ratio of almost 4-to-1. Second, Newport finds that “religious Americans are significantly more “Žlikely than less religious Americans to be sympathetic to the Israelis,” confirming what common sense already “Žtells us. “Ž

That said, his numbers contain several noteworthy subtleties: “Ž

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  • A near-linear relationship exists between church attendance and outlook (see image 2, above): 66 percent of weekly or almost-“Žweekly church-goers favor Israel, as do 58 percent of monthly and seldom church-goers and 46 percent “Žof never church-goers. Conversely, sympathy toward the Palestinians is also near-linear: 13 percent, 16 “Žpercent, and 23 percent, respectively.
  • In both cases, any church attendance at all makes Christians more alike to each other vs. those who never “Žattend, a difference that has somewhat widened recently.
  • When one looks at religious group (see image 3, above), Jews, Mormons, and non-Catholic Christians are the most pro-Israel; “ŽCatholics match the national average; other religious groups and the non-religious are the least pro-Israel. “Ž
  • Political views and religiosity both influence Americans’ view — but as independent variables. “Ž
  • Political views matter more than religiosity: “Nonreligious Republicans are more likely to sympathize with “ŽIsraelis than highly religious Democrats.””Ž
  • Church attendance has more of an impact on Republican views than on Democratic ones. “Ž
  • Israel brings together two very politically dissimilar groups, church-attending Republican Christians and “ŽJewish Democrats.”Ž

Some reflections on these figures: “Ž

1) Although religiosity helps explain the difference between the United States and Europe, politics has more “Žimportance: that even irreligious Americans favor Israel 2-to-1 marks them as very different from their European “Žcounterparts. “Ž

2) Given the prominence of Jewish anti-Zionists in the academy, the media, and in Hollywood, the 93-to-2 “ŽJewish support for Israel comes as a surprise, suggesting that the most accomplished and articulate Jews tend to “Žbe disproportionately hostile to Israel. Perhaps this is their way of fitting into the leftist institutions where they “Žwork and hope to succeed?”Ž

3) One wishes the “Protestant” category provided further details on the various denominations. How much do “Žthe mainline churches differ from the evangelical ones? Do the adherents of anti-Israel churches follow their “Žleadership in this regard? Are there important changes over time? Gallup should inform us about this in the “Žfuture. “Ž

4) Muslims are lumped in with other non-Christians but have a unique profile. In Canada, whose Muslim “Žpopulation differs substantially from the American Muslim community, pro-Israel Muslims number about 20 percent. I estimate “Žthat pro-Israel American Muslims number half that percentage or less. Also of note: Religiosity among Muslims “Žhas the opposite influence of religiosity among Christians, making them less pro-Israel. “Ž

In conclusion, Israel benefits from the fact that Americans remain in large part a religious people. But declining “Žreligiosity bodes ill for the Jewish state. “Ž

Daniel Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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