American Jews are generally pessimistic about current political developments across the Middle East, notably the “Arab Spring,” Iran’s nuclear program and Arab intentions regarding Israel. The annual American Jewish Committee survey also gauged Jewish opinions on likely U.S. presidential candidates for 2016, U.S.-Israel relations, the role of religion in Israel, and President Obama’s handling of a range of foreign and domestic policy issues. Despite reports of a decline in American Jewish enthusiasm for Israel, over three-quarters of the respondents believe that caring about Israel is a key component of Jewish identity.
On the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton is the candidate with the most positive sentiment, followed by Joe Biden, John Kerry, Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Among Democratic and Independent voters, Clinton is the preferred candidate and for Republicans it is Gov. Christie.
The survey asked, for the first time, about the upheavals in the Arab world that began nearly three years ago.
- Regarding the changes in several Middle Eastern countries, 56 percent are pessimistic, and 40 percent are optimistic.
- Regarding the recent political developments in Egypt, 68 percent are pessimistic and 30 percent are optimistic.
- On the civil war in Syria, 11 percent would like to see the government win, 24 percent favor the rebels, and 63 percent chose neither side.
While American Jews are distrustful of the long-term goals of the Arabs regarding Israel, half of the respondents favor the establishment of a Palestinian state.
- 50 percent favor and 47 percent oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 2010, 48 percent favored and 45 percent opposed.
- 75 percent agree and 24 percent disagree with the statement: “The goal of the Arabs is not a peaceful two-state agreement with Israel, but rather the destruction of Israel.”
- 68 percent say the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace have stayed the same since a year ago, while 12 percent say the prospects have increased and 19 percent decreased.
Iran Nuclear Threat
While an overwhelming majority of American Jews continue to be highly concerned about Iran’s efforts to achieve nuclear-weapons capability, support for military action, whether by the U.S. especially, or by Israel, to prevent Iran from crossing that threshold has declined.
- 84 percent are concerned about the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. In September 2012, 91 percent were concerned.
- 46 percent say it is likely, and 52 percent say it is unlikely, that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In 2012, 36 percent said it is likely and 64 percent unlikely.
- 52 percent would support and 45 percent would oppose U.S. military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian program. Last year, 64 percent supported and 35 percent opposed American military action.
- 67 percent would support and 30 percent would oppose Israeli military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian program. In 2012, 73 percent supported and 26 percent opposed Israeli military action.
As in previous AJC surveys, the state of Israel is a major factor in American Jewish identity. A majority, 70 percent, agrees and 30 percent disagrees with the statement “caring about Israel is very important part of being a Jew.”
For the first time, the AJC survey asked about the role of religion in the state of Israel, and found that most American Jews think that currently religion has too much influence. Forty-three percent favor separation of religion and state; 25 percent say religion should play less of a role; 23 percent say the current relationship of religion and state is best; and 6 percent say religion should play more of a role.
Separation between religion and state enjoys strong support across all denominations.
- 47 percent of Orthodox, 31 percent of Conservative, 41 percent of Reform, and 50 percent of Just Jewish think there should be separation of religion and state.
- The view that the current relationship between religion and state is best is supported by 22 percent of Orthodox, 30 percent of Conservative, 21 percent of Reform, and 23 percent of Just Jewish
- Religion should play more of a role is backed by 22 percent of Orthodox, 6 percent of Conservative, 6 percent of Reform, and 2 percent of Just Jewish
- Religion should play less of a role is supported by 10 percent of Orthodox, 33 percent of Conservative, 29 percent of Reform, and 22 percent of Just Jewish
President Obama Performance
President Obama receives a rather high approval rating from American Jews on his handling of several key foreign policy and domestic policy issues:
- On national security, 67 percent approve and 33 percent disapprove
- On the economy, 58 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove
- On U.S.-Israel relations, 59 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove
- On the conflict in Syria, 59 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove
- On immigration, 63 percent approve and 35 percent disapprove
American Jews remain highly concerned about anti-Semitism, especially in Europe and, above all, in the Arab world.
- 14 percent consider anti-Semitism in the U.S. a very serious problem, 67 percent somewhat of a problem, and 18 percent no problem at all.
- 38 percent consider anti-Semitism in Europe a very serious problem, 52 percent somewhat of a problem and 9 percent not a problem.
- 88 percent consider anti-Semitism in the Arab world a very serious problem, 10 percent somewhat of a problem and 1 percent not a problem.
Thirty-three percent say being Jewish is very important, 30 percent somewhat important, 22 percent not too important and 14 percent not at all important. But opinions about the importance of being Jewish vary by denomination and by age.
- Among the Orthodox, 77 percent say it is very important, 14 percent somewhat important, and 9 percent not important
- Among Conservative Jews, 50 percent say it is very important, 28 percent somewhat important, and 20 percent not important
- Among Reform Jews, 34 percent say it is very important, 41 percent somewhat important, and 25 percent not important
- Among Just Jewish, 11 percent say it is very important, 26 percent somewhat important, and 62 percent not important
- Among 18-29 year olds, 52 percent say it is important (either very important or somewhat important) and 46 percent not important
- Among 30-44 years olds, 46 percent say it is important and 53 percent not important
- Among 45-59 year olds, 66 percent say it is important and 33 percent not important
- Among 60+, 74 percent say it is important and 25 percent not important
From: American Jewish Committee
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