White evangelical support for Israel is greater than any other Christian group

(RNS) – Earlier this week, 12 Republican senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling for the cancellation of $1 million State Department grants to ‘anti-Israel NGOs’ .

Republican senators’ unwavering support for Israel comes as no surprise, according to a new Pew Research survey of US attitudes toward Israel and Palestine. Republicans and those leaning towards the Republican Party express far more positive views of the Israeli people and their government than Democrats – 78% of Republicans view the Israeli people positively compared to 60% of Democrats.

But white evangelicals, most of whom are proud Republicans, have the strongest opinions of Israelis. A whopping 86% of white evangelicals said they felt warm towards Israelis – more than any other Christian group. In comparison, only 58% of black Protestants felt warmly toward Israelis.

Overall, the March survey of 10,441 American adults found that two-thirds of Americans express at least a somewhat favorable view of the Israeli people. But he also found a modest warming of Palestinians, among young Americans, and a general lack of familiarity with and support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which aims to pressure Israel to change its policy towards the Palestinians. Palestinians.

As with so many other political issues (abortion, immigration, race, guns), white evangelicals stand apart from other religious groups in their views. As far as Israel is concerned, these views seem firmly rooted in their faith.

The survey found that 70% of white evangelicals believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. By comparison, only 32% of American Jews felt that God had given Israel to the Jewish people, according to a 2020 Pew survey, which asked a similar (but not identical) question.

A road sign leading to the new US Embassy is seen ahead of the official opening in Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“It’s important to their theological narrative,” said Arielle Levites, assistant research professor at George Washington University, referring to white evangelicals. “It’s important to their own sense of the story arc.”

Many evangelicals view the creation of Israel in 1948 as the fulfillment of Bible prophecy that would usher in the return of Jesus, although the survey did not ask about it.

It is perhaps unsurprising that evangelicals score lowest in their estimation of Palestinians (37%), even though some Palestinians are other Christians (the majority are Muslims).

White evangelicals are also the religious group most likely to express a very or somewhat favorable opinion of the Israeli government (68%), compared to Catholics (50%), non-evangelical white Protestants (51%), black Protestants (43%) and people with no religious affiliation (31%). The survey did not have enough respondents from Jewish, Muslim or other religious traditions to report on their responses.

The survey, the second of its kind since 2019, also revealed a growing generational divide, with young Americans feeling much warmer towards Palestinians. Americans 30 and under The Palestinians slightly more favorably than the Israelis (61% against 56%). Overall, 67% of Americans expressed a favorable opinion of Israelis and 52% expressed a favorable opinion of Palestinians.

"Wide partisan and age gaps in the opinions of Israelis and Palestinians" Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

“Wide partisan and age gaps in Israeli and Palestinian opinions” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

This generational shift in US attitudes toward Israel was reflected in another survey, commissioned by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and conducted by the Barna Group. This 2021 survey found that younger evangelicals are much less supportive of Israel than older evangelicals. Support for Israel among young evangelicals dropped from 75% to 34% between 2018 and 2021.

“Clearly there are more favorable views of Palestinians among young people,” said Ariela Keysar, associate research professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. “I see it as a kind of generational memory. Older people see Israel before 1948, before Israel was established as a democracy surrounded by hostile Arab countries. Young people are shaped by current events. Many encounter anti-Israel views on campus. They encounter protests. The elderly were not exposed to this.

Perhaps most surprisingly in the survey, 84% of Americans said they had heard “not much” or “nothing at all” about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The BDS movement, launched by Palestinian groups in 2005, states that “Israel occupies and colonizes Palestinian land, discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denies Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes.”

Americans, Democrats and Republicans, young and old, and of various Christian denominations had relatively uniform views on BDS, that is, they professed ignorance.

“BDS has a lot of interest in a very small percentage of people,” said Ari Y. Kelman, associate professor of education and Jewish studies at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. “It’s not about galvanizing people as an organizational strategy, as South Africa’s divestment managed to do for a much wider section of the population.”

Overall, 5% of Americans say they support the BDS movement against Israel.

Asked about the possible outcomes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the survey found that 35% of Americans favored a two-state solution, in which the land would be divided between Israelis and Palestinians, and 27% favored a two-state solution. a state. More than a third – 37% – said they weren’t sure what the solution to the conflict should be.

The margin of error for the full survey of 10,441 respondents was plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

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Barry F. Howard