New study measures sentiment toward Israel among US religious audiences

Impact of war in Gaza measured; Catholics least supportive of Israel, while Evangelical support varies based on age

NEW YORK — A new survey, part of a multi-year research project measuring American Christian attitudes toward Jews, Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, shows that support for Israel among evangelicals is largely based on age and Biblical knowledge and has not been substantively impacted by the current Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The comparative study, which simultaneously examines sentiment across mainline, evangelical and Catholic communities, finds that a belief that “God’s covenant with the Jewish people remains intact today” has the greatest impact on support for Israel among a number of potential political, theological, sociological, and demographic factors considered in the study. If a respondent professes this belief, the likelihood that this person strongly supports Israel increases almost threefold (180%).

The second most influential justification across mainline, evangelical and Catholic communities is rooted in history rather than theology, with those who believe “Jews need a state of their own after the Holocaust” being 122% more likely to strongly support Israel in the current war.

Specific to evangelicals, the study compares three different time periods over the last six years (2018, 2021 and 2024), revealing:

  • Overall, evangelical support for Israel remains stable from 2021 to 2024, though earlier surveys did show a sharp decline in evangelical support for Israel between 2018 and 2021.
  • A decrease in the number of evangelicals viewing Israel in a traditional biblical context, including a decrease in the number of evangelicals agreeing with the idea of the Abrahamic Covenant.
  • A decrease in core evangelical behavior like attending church and reading the Bible. Past studies have shown that these religious practices increase support for Israel.
  • The current conflict generates a negative view of Palestinians and Muslims. The comparative research shows a decrease in the image of Muslims, a decrease in support for an independent Palestinian state and a larger blame for Palestinians in the conflict. A large segment blamed both sides in both the 2021 and 2024 wars in Gaza.
  • In 2024, more evangelicals are saying they have some knowledge of the conflict compared with 2021, which researchers attribute to more news coverage of Israel in recent months.

Specific to Catholics, the survey found that Catholics are the least supportive of Jewish interests and causes, and exhibit the highest support for antisemitic tropes among the three surveyed groups.  Their views remained stable between 2022 and 2024, meaning that the current crisis has not substantively altered Catholic opinions.

While mainline denominations have been active in supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, with the United Methodist Church passing a fresh resolution at this summer’s General Conference,  the 2024 survey shows that 80 percent of mainline attendees have never even heard of the BDS movement and only seven percent support it.  As the researchers shared in a recent Religion News Service op-ed, the views of the mainline clergy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are out-of-sync with the views of the congregants.

The survey was conducted by Dr. Motti Inbari, a professor of Jewish studies at UNC Pembroke, and Dr. Kirill Bumin, the Associate Dean of Metropolitan College and Director of Boston University Summer Term Programs. The study was carried out March 8-14, 2024, and included 2,033 self-identified Christian adults with a ±2.2 margin of error.  Partial funding was provided by Chosen People Ministries, the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem, and by both Jews and Christians seeking a better understanding of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and concerned with the rising tide of antisemitism today.  

“A surprising finding has been that the scale of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not seem to impact how most respondents perceive the conflict and which party to the conflict they support,” said Kirill Bumin. “Once attitudes about the conflict are formed and crystalized, new information is not likely to significantly dislodge them.”

The researchers also found it interesting how attitudes toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict vary among first-generation immigrants and are based on the length of their residence in the U.S. “The gist of it – the longer one resides in the U.S., the more pro-Israel and the less pro-Palestinian they become,” said Motti Inbari. “American pro-Israel culture changes immigrant attitudes over time.”

Recent college protests reflect findings of generational fissures in the American public. The research shows that the age of the respondent is a highly significant variable in explaining attitudes toward Israel, even after accounting for potential political, religious, cultural, and other demographic explanations. 50-64-year-old respondents are most supportive of Israel, even in comparison to the 65 and older respondents, who are also ardent supporters of Israel. Additionally, statistical analysis shows that under-30 respondents are 47% less likely to express strong support for Israel than older respondents. The only age group for which the researchers did not find statistically significant effects is the 30-49-year-old cohort.

“No matter one’s thoughts on the war in Gaza, I think everyone would agree that Jewish college students should not be targeted for antisemitic attacks and hate crimes,” said Dr. Mitch Glaser, CEO of Chosen People Ministries. “We seek to help educate the public about what contributes to this type of egregious behavior and the measures we can take to prevent it in the future.”

Note to Editors: A sharable version of a portion of the data from the study is available upon request. 


Melany Ethridge
A. Larry Ross Communications
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

Source link

Related Articles

Do you run a company that want to build a new website and are looking for a web agency in Sweden that can do the job? At Partna you can get connected to experienced web agencies that are interested in helping you with your website development. Partna is an online service where you simply post your web development needs in order to get business offers from skilled web agencies in Sweden. Instead of reaching out to hundreds of agencies by yourself, let up to 5 web agencies come to you via Partna.
Back to top button