Poll shows deep divide between Israeli, American Jews

Twin polls of Israeli, US Jews uncover divides on range of issues - with an especially stark one on perceptions of President Trump.

JTA,

President Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport
President Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport
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Israeli and American Jews disagree on much - communities in Judea and Samaria, religious pluralism, even the degree to which they are “family.”

And now you can add Donald Trump to the mix.

Twin polls of Israeli and American Jews published by the American Jewish Committee on Sunday uncovered divides on all these issues, but an especially stark one about perceptions of the American president.

Asked if they approved of Trump’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, 57 percent of American Jews disapproved while 34 percent approved. Among Israeli respondents, the divide was 77 percent approved while 10 percent disapproved.

That gap extended to perhaps Trump’s best known Israel related policy, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. American Jews were statistically evenly split, with 46 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing. Israeli Jews were overwhelmingly in favor, with 85 percent supporting and 7 percent opposing.

There are areas of agreement as well, on the importance of a thriving Israel and a thriving Diaspora to the Jewish future, and on whether being Jewish is a matter of religion or ethnicity.

“The surveys reveal sharp differences of opinion between the world’s two largest Jewish communities on President Trump, U.S.-Israel relations, and Israel’s security and peace process policies,” the AJC said in a release. “On Jewish communal issues, such as Jewish religious equality in Israel, the surveys confirm fissures between American Jews and Israelis, though, at the same time, the data show a degree of commonality in opinions about the vitality of both the Diaspora and the State of Israel and their significance for the future of the Jewish people.”

There’s also a small bright light for Trump stateside: American Jews still overwhelmingly disapprove of him, but not as much as they did the last time AJC polled them - he gained 6 points, going from 77 to 71, just outside the margin of error of 3.9 percentage points. Favorable ratings climbed 5 points, from 21 to 26. (By way of contrast, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll last week scored 44 percent approval ratings for Trump among the general population.)

Other areas of division included:

"Settlements:" Asked whether Israel should dismantle some, all or none of its Judea and Samaria communities in a peace deal with the PA, 4 percent of Israeli Jews said all, 35 percent said some and 54 percent said none. Among American Jews, 15 percent said all, 44 percent said some and 35 percent said none.

Pluralism: Among American Jews, 80 percent said non-Orthodox rabbis should be able to officiate weddings while 17 percent said they should not; among Israeli Jews, the split was 49 percent in favor, 45 percent against. Asked whether Israel should allow civil marriage, 81 percent of American Jews said it should while 13 percent said it should not. A majority of Israeli Jews also favored civil marriage, but it was a closer split: 55-40.

American Jews favored by 73 percent “a mixed-gender prayer area adjacent to the Western Wall administered on an equal basis with the services at the Wall itself,” while 21 percent were opposed. Among Israeli Jews, the split was 42 percent in favor, with 48 percent opposed.

Peoplehood: Asked how they viewed Israelis, 12 percent of American Jews said “siblings,” 15 percent said “first cousins,” 39 percent said “extended family” and 31 percent said “not part of my family.” Affections were greater among Israelis: 28 percent regarded American Jews as “siblings,” 10 percent as “first cousins,” 40 percent as “extended family,” while just 22 percent said “not part of my family.”

There were areas of agreement too:

The Jewish future: Among Israeli Jews, 78 percent thought a “thriving” Diaspora was vital to the future of the Jewish people, while 15 percent did not. The split among American Jews was 69 percent agreeing and 17 percent not. The same question regarding a “thriving” Israel got 87 percent approval among Israeli Jews, with 6 percent disagreeing, while among American Jews the split was 79 percent agreeing and 17 percent disagreeing.

Jewish identity: 56 percent of American Jews said being Jewish was “mostly a matter of ethnicity or culture,” while 24 percent said it was mostly a matter of religion and 17 percent said it was both equally. Among Israeli Jews, the split was 40 percent believing ethnicity and culture were more important, 19 percent listing religion and 37 percent listing both.

The Israeli poll, carried out by Geocatography, reached 1,000 Jews over the age of 18 by phone in May. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. The American poll was carried out by SSRS; it reached 1,001 Jews over the age of 18 by phone between April 18 and May 10, and has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.


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