JPPI’s Voice of the Jewish People Index

Voice of the Jewish People Survey – April 2024

US Jews claim that discrimination against them has increased since the start of the Gaza war and think Washington is not supporting Israel strongly enough.

 

Main Findings

• US Jews overwhelmingly agree that discrimination against them has increased since the start of the Gaza war

• They also feel that discrimination against Jews has risen to a much greater extent than against Muslims

• Many US Jews feel that Washington isn’t supporting Israel strongly enough in wartime

• Most survey respondents feel that Israel’s actions in Gaza after the October Hamas attacks have been “acceptable”

• Most trusted information sources: IDF spokesperson and President Biden

• Liberals blame the Israeli government for tensions with the Biden administration; conservatives blame the administration

• Ten percent of American Jews are still unsure who they will vote for in the November presidential elections

• A large majority of respondents assumed that discussing Israel at the Passover Seder was unavoidable

Discrimination against Jews and Arabs

JPPI’s April Kol Haam survey was conducted against the background of demonstrations on American campuses marked by strident anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric. These demonstrations elicited harsh reactions from some leaders of the US Jewish community, as well as from college instructors and students, who maintain that the atmosphere on these campuses is distinctly hostile to Jews. A survey question about “discrimination” against Jews, Arabs, and Muslims in the United States should be considered in this context; respondents were asked whether, since the start of the war in Gaza, discrimination had increased, decreased, or remained the same. JPPI asked a similar question two months ago, but the findings are not comparable due to the changing situation on campuses and, accordingly, in the overall atmosphere to which respondents are reacting.

There was nearly overwhelming agreement among the panel respondents that anti-Jewish discrimination in the United States has risen since the start of the war. This consensus spans all political camps, religious streams, and age cohorts. A significant majority of respondents believe there was no worsening of discrimination against Arabs or Muslims during the same period, although a third of strongly liberal Jews did think that discrimination against these groups has also been on the rise. Notably, the Pew Research Center asked a similar question in a survey it conducted in February and also found a wide disparity in the assessment of discrimination against Jews compared to discrimination against Arabs and Muslims. However, nearly half of the Jewish respondents in the Pew survey said that discrimination against Arabs and Muslims had also increased.

US Support for Israel

Between January and March 2024 significant changes were found in how Jews assess US support for Israel’s war effort. A larger percentage of politically centrist (including right- or left-leaning) Jews rated American support for Israel as insufficient. A substantial change was found in this period among strong liberals in particular (a quarter of all survey respondents), more than a quarter of whom said that the US supports Israel too much, and the share of those who felt that the US supports Israel to the right extent declined.

The trend line for the April survey continues in the same direction: liberal Jews (“leaning liberal” and “strong liberal”) feel that the Biden administration supports Israel “to the right degree.” By contrast, the feeling that the US “doesn’t support Israel enough” grew stronger among politically centrist and conservative Jews. It should be noted that this sentiment was expressed before Congress approved a special aid package for Israel (April 23) – but also before extensive news reporting that the administration was mulling sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda IDF combat battalion.

A Rift Between the Governments

Reports of a “rift” (though sometimes only “tensions”) between the Biden administration and the Israeli government over the war have persisted in recent weeks as well. Although the administration and the Israeli government worked together to thwart the massive Iranian offensive on Israel (April 14), the US pressured Israel afterward for restraint in its response to the attack. At the same time, with the administration’s encouragement, Congress approved the generous military aid package mentioned above. Concurrently, however, it was reported that the administration was close to imposing sanctions on an IDF battalion – news that was rebuked Israel’s entire political echelon, both coalition and opposition. In light of Israel’s modified policy on humanitarian aid to Gaza, under American pressure, and against the background of preparations for an IDF operation in Rafah (representing at least some degree of persistence despite American opposition), we sought to discover, through the respondent panel, who is thought to bear the “blame” for the tense atmosphere between the two governments. The options were “the American administration,” “the Israeli government,” or “both equally.” As the graph below shows (from which the “both equally” and “don’t know” responses were omitted), there are major disparities between American Jews on this assessment of blame, based on political orientation. Liberal Jews tend to lay most of the responsibility for the tensions on the Israeli government and its policies, while Jews of the center and rightward tend to place most of the responsibility on the Biden administration.

It should be noted, however, that these tendencies are not balanced between the various Jewish subgroups. This can easily be seen when we look at the views of those who plan to vote for Biden in November. Nearly half of these (46%) hold Israel responsible for the tensions, but a third (34%) feel that the responsibility lies equally with both governments. By contrast, Jewish Trump supporters (who constitute a minority), show a clear tendency to place the blame on the Biden administration. Ninety-five percent of these respondents believe the administration is to blame, while only 3% apportion the blame equally.

Israeli Actions

In recent months we have repeated questions regarding support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, and whether these actions are conducted with appropriate or inappropriate degrees of aggressivity. In February, the three respondent groups that represent the Jewish “political center” (leaning liberal, leaning conservative, and centrist), tended to maintain that Israel was acting with an appropriate degree of aggressivity. The strong liberal subgroup showed increases in both February and March in the share criticizing Israel for being too aggressive. The percentage of strong liberals who felt that Israel is “much too aggressive” rose from 37% to 43% between February and March.

In April we reworded the question to more closely resemble the question asked in the Pew Research Center’s March 2024 survey. In general, we show responses and findings broken down by sector and subgroup, rather than presenting a weighted picture for American Jewry as a whole. However, we do weightings for testing purposes (the weighting was done on the basis of the 2021 Pew survey findings for Jewish Americans as a whole). There was a two-month lag between the Pew survey and the JPPI survey (Pew collected data for its March survey in February), which renders a reliable comparison of the results impossible, as respondents may have changed their views in the interim. Either way, the weighted data for JPPI’s panel obtain a result significantly more sympathetic to Israeli actions. In the Pew survey, 62% answered that Israel’s actions were “somewhat acceptable” or “completely acceptable,” but in the JPPI survey, after the data weighting for political outlook and denomination, the figure was 83% (respondents in both surveys were Jews “by religion”).

Sense of Closeness to Israel

Since the war began, we have asked several times whether American Jews feel that the painful events in the Middle East have made them feel “closer” to or “more distant” from Israel. Responses to this question have changed along the timeline are easily discernable when the findings of the first survey, conducted at the war’s onset when the October massacre was still fresh in people’s minds, are compared with the findings of this month’s survey, April 2024 – six months into the war. As can be seen in the above table, Jews from the center rightward show no significant change in feelings; a large majority continue to think the events are making them feel closer to Israel. Over the same period, the share of liberal-leaning Jews (a majority of American Jews) saying the events are making them feel closer to Israel declined.

Weighting the survey data by political orientation and religious denomination shows that even in April a majority of Jews felt that the events were making them feel closer to Israel. However, nearly a third of “strong liberal” Jews think the events were actually making them feel more distant from Israel.

Whom Do They Trust

As they formulate their views on the war, American Jews are exposed to a variety of information sources. This month, we asked panel respondents to name the information source – a media outlet, a leader, an organization – they trust most as they formulate their views. When all the results are weighted (by political orientation and religious stream), the two sources that received the highest ratings from the options we presented were President Biden and the IDF spokesperson. However, as the table shows, there are substantial trust disparities by political orientation; the more left-leaning end of the spectrum gave President Biden the highest ranking; centrists and those who lean conservative cited the IDF spokesperson as their leading source; and strong conservatives ranked Prime Minister Netanyahu as their most-trusted source. However, the Israeli prime minister received a low ranking from American Jewry as a whole.

Interestingly, Netanyahu’s rating is still higher than that received by “the US media,” which, according to this survey, only a small share of American Jews rank as their most trusted source for information on wartime events in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.

2024 Elections

Among panel respondents, expected voter choices in the 2024 US presidential elections remain quite stable. When the panel results are weighted by political orientation and religious stream, the share of Jews expected to vote for Joe Biden is 61% and for Donald Trump 17%, with 10% saying “another candidate” or “I will not vote” and 11% saying they are undecided. These findings are very similar to those obtained by the Jewish Electorate Institute in November 2023 (68% for Biden, 22% for Trump, 11% undecided). Compared with JPPI panel data for previous months the differences are again not large, expect (except?) for a tangible drop in the percentage of Jews who self-identify as “centrist” – a decline that should be tracked to see if the trend persists.

Passover Seder

Eight in ten Jews said that they would be taking part in a Passover Seder this year, based on weighted JPPI survey data. This is a higher figure than the usual 70%, a likely result of the panel makeup and an increased intention among US Jews to take part in a Passover Seder this year. Either way, our goal was not to determine seder participation rates, but to ask whether US Jews, on gathering to read the Haggadah, would avoid (or, by the time of publication, had avoided) discussing the Israeli situation. This question was worth asking because quite a few American columnists have mentioned, in earlier years and this year as well, that they try to avoid discussing Israel with their relatives, so as not to set off arguments at the Seder table.

The survey results indicate that a great many discussions were held around American Seder tables in which Israel came up. Only a small percentage of respondents attested to a family “consensus” to avoid discussions about Israel, while a slightly larger but still small percentage believed that the topic “wouldn’t come up.” A substantial majority of all Jewish subgroups assumed that the situation in Israel would come up for discussion in the course of the Seder – some hoped that it wouldn’t, but still assumed it would.

Sample Data and its Implications

This report is an analysis of a survey administered to approximately 700 US Jews registered for the Jewish People Policy Institute’s Voice of the Jewish People panel. The report does not provide a weighted figure that represents the views of American Jewry as a whole, but the number of survey participants from various groups enables us to identify trends, significant views, and disparities between different Jewish identity groups based on religious affiliation, emotional attachment to Israel, political orientation, attachment to Judaism, and more. Roughly speaking, it can be said that this survey tends to reflect the attitudes of US Jews with some connection to the Jewish community, as indicated by a specific question in this regard (which includes data on anyone who stated a connection to some Jewish institution, such as a synagogue, community center, Jewish organization, etc.), as well as by data on respondent visits to Israel, which is significantly than the average for all US Jews.

Data on survey participants (see adjacent table): About half self-identify as Reform or Conservative; the share of Conservative panel respondents higher than the percentage among all American Jews. The share of those unaffiliated with any religious stream is substantially lower than among American Jewry in general, but a fairly high number of unaffiliated respondents in the survey sample (98) allows us to assess the attitudes of this group as well. Politically, about 30% of respondents lean conservative, a figure not far from the commonly accepted disaggregation of US Jews by political orientation. Survey participants tend to visit Israel at a substantially higher rate than the American Jewish average, and the share of intermarried panel respondents is relatively low compared to the rate in the general Jewish population.

To download the PDF version, click here.