Israel-Diaspora Relations

Voice of the Jewish People Survey – June 2024: The November Elections, US-Israel Relations and Zionism

80% of American Jews opposed the suspension of arms shipments to Israel as a diplomatic pressure tool.

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Main Findings

  • Most survey participants (with the exception of the “strong liberal” cohort) do not feel that suspending arms shipments to Israel is a legitimate means for the Biden administration to pressure Israel politically.
  • There is also a disparity among respondents regarding the suspension of arms shipments to Israel: Those “definitely” voting for Biden consider shipment suspensions legitimate, while the other respondent groups do not.
  • A similar disparity was found regarding blame for the rift in US-Israel relations between those who will “definitely” vote for Biden and those who are “likely” to vote for Biden.
  • Biden supporters characterize him and not Trump as “pro-Israel”; Trump supporters characterize Trump and not Biden as “pro-Israel.”
  • A significant percentage of respondents report that their Jewish identity and connection to Israel have strengthened in the wake of the October 7 attacks.
  • A significant percentage of the Jews surveyed report that they have added a Jewish symbol to their attire since October 7.
  • A significant percentage of respondents report that the chances of their visiting Israel have increased as a result of the war (a fifth of those who have never visited report that the chances of doing so have diminished).
  • A substantial majority of survey respondents self-identify as “Zionist” or “somewhat Zionist.” There is a slightly larger percentage of those who self-identify as “not Zionist” among young people, ultra-Orthodox, and those who have never visited Israel.
  • The more strongly a Jew self-identifies as “Zionist,” the more likely his or her circle of Jewish friends will be “Zionist.”

US-Israel Relations

In JPPI’s ongoing monthly Voice of the Jewish People surveys this year, we see a slow but steady trend of divergence between the most liberal and conservative respondents in their understanding of the state of the US-Israel relationship. The percentage of strong liberals who believe that US support for Israel is insufficient is falling, while the share of strong conservatives who feel this way is rising.

The June 2024 survey was conducted before the dispute between Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Biden administration over the supply of US arms to Israel escalated; therefore, no direct question was asked about this public dispute, which featured the release of a video in which Netanyahu noted an ongoing drop in the pace of arms supply to Israel and demanded that the shipments be accelerated. However, a more general question was posed following reports about the Biden administration’s suspension of a weapons shipment to Israel: respondents were asked whether it is legitimate to suspend such shipments if the goal is to exert political pressure on the Israeli government. For this question, as for many of the political questions, a disparity can be seen between respondents who self-identify as “strong liberal” and other Voice of the Jewish People survey respondent groups. The “strong liberal” group is the only one in which there is a majority who believe that suspending arms shipments to Israel is a legitimate course of action.

With a view toward the approaching November US elections, we asked respondents which presidential candidate they plan to vote for, and we also looked at their degree of certainty regarding their voting intentions. When responses are broken down by voting intentions, one can see that those who are fully convinced that they will vote for Biden tend to say that the US supports Israel enough, while those who think they will “likely” vote for Biden, or who will definitely or likely vote for Trump, feel that US support for Israel is insufficient.

A majority of survey respondents plan to vote for Biden in November. As might be expected, a large majority of liberals say that they will definitely vote for Biden. Conservative respondents say that they will vote for Trump, at varying levels of certainty.

A comparison of this month’s Voice of the Jewish People survey with the one administered in April shows a certain rise in the percentage of “leaning liberal” respondents who feel that Israel bears most of the responsibility for the deepening rift between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government. In terms of voting intentions, we again see a gap between those who will definitely vote for Joe Biden (the largest group) and the other respondent groups (including those who will “likely” vote for Biden). There is no way to dispositively determine whether the ambivalence about Biden among those who are “likely” to vote for him is related to the views or actions of his administration pertaining to the war in Israel, but for many questions we find a correlation between certainty in voting intentions and respondent satisfaction with the Biden administration’s conduct vis-à-vis Israel.

Attachment to Israel

In June’s survey we posed questions about attachment to Israel and Jewish identity, both relative to earlier months and compared (subjectively, as reported by the participants) to the period before Israel’s current war. We have examined respondents’ connection to Israel several times over the course of the war. In the months that have passed since the war started, there has been an erosion in the sense of closeness to Israel, which had deepened significantly on the heels of the October 7 onslaught. A quarter of “strong liberal” respondents now indicate that the war is in fact distancing them from Israel.

A substantial percentage of survey respondents say that the war has increased the chances of them visiting Israel, but there is also a significant percentage who say that the war has diminished the likelihood that they will visit. The interesting finding is that even among respondents who have never visited Israel, a third state that the chances of their visiting has risen, versus a fifth who say it has dropped. Of course, we must acknowledge the possibility that social desirability bias has spurred some respondents to express support or identification with Israel by affirming the possibility of a future visit.

Attachment to Judaism

Most respondents who are affiliated with the Jewish community attest that they have stepped up the frequency of their participation in Jewish activities since October 7. Most respondents who are not affiliated with the Jewish community report that the events of October 7 and their aftermath have not caused them to participate more than they have in the past.

A question on how the war has affected respondents’ Jewish identity (not active participation as in the previous question) elicited a finding that attests to strengthened identity among a large swath of all groups and sectors.

This finding should of course be treated cautiously, for two reasons. First, it is based on participant self-reporting of what they remember from before the war in comparison to the current situation. Second, as mentioned earlier, questions of this kind sometimes fall into the trap of social desirability bias – the desire of respondents to give the “correct” answer under the circumstances at the time. A comparison to an identical question in the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) annual opinion survey reveals certain disparities vis-à-vis JPPI’s Voice of the Jewish People survey: a weighted share of 60% report strengthened Jewish identity, versus 48% in the AJC survey. Thirty-seven percent of Voice of the Jewish People respondents report that there has been no change in their identity, compared with 48% reporting change in response to an identical AJC survey question around the same time. This gap likely reflects the fact that the Voice of the Jewish People survey is based on a panel of Jewish respondents whose affiliation with the Jewish community is relatively strong.

The finding of “strengthened” Jewish identity is also reflected in the responses to a question on the wearing of Jewish symbols (necklace, bracelet, kippa, tee shirt – any identifiably Jewish attire). A sizeable proportion of Voice of the Jewish People survey respondents report having added such an item since October 7. Between a quarter and a third of participants – each respondent sub-group with its own specific percentage – report the addition of a Jewish symbol to their attire. Only a relatively small percentage of Jews report the removal of a Jewish symbol from what they wear. These findings contrast with those from the annual AJC survey of American Jews, published in June 2024, in which 42% reported that they do not feel safe wearing a Jewish signifier in public.

Regarding Jews’ sense of security, June brought the disappearance of campus protests, which emptied for the summer vacation. However, the sense of security among Jews has not increased significantly at this stage; most still report a decline in their sense of security since the start of the war.

In a series of questions about the election campaigns currently heating up in the US, we sought to assess how Jews regard the two presidential candidates’ attitudes toward Israel. The chosen question did not delineate criteria, but simply asked whether each candidate is “pro-Israel” or not. The responses indicate the degree to which attitudes toward the candidates, even on a binary question such as this one, are colored in strong political hues, with each political camp identifying “its” candidate as the pro-Israel one.

It should be noted that for this question, like earlier questions we posed, there is a major disparity in the responses between those who will “definitely” vote for Joe Biden, a large majority of whom are convinced that Biden is “pro-Israel,” and those who will “likely” vote for him but maintain a degree of uncertainty – a sizeable share of whom are not convinced that he is “pro-Israel.” As noted above, our survey is unable to identify the reason for this gap – but we can hypothesize that the remaining hesitation among those who will “likely” vote for Biden but haven’t made a final decision to do so stems (entirely or among other reasons) from how they perceive his views on Israel, and their tendency to regard his conduct in this respect as suboptimal.

The Zionism Question

For the first time, this month’s Voice of the Jewish People survey asked respondents to specify how they self-define with regard to Zionism. The concept of Zionism has become fraught in recent years, and the term is often used as slur at anti-Israel and anti-war demonstrations. As the table below shows, a significant majority of Voice of the Jewish People panel respondents, across all groups, self-identify as Zionist or “somewhat Zionist.” However, there is also a certain representation of Jews who are not Zionists or who are anti-Zionist. The share of non-Zionists, and to a lesser degree anti-Zionists, is more marked among those who have never visited Israel. The percentage of non-Zionists is also notable among ultra-Orthodox respondents. It is also of note among those who said they do not plan to vote in the upcoming US elections (this finding should be treated with caution, as it is based on a small group and has no significant statistical validity).

Segmentation of affinity with Zionism by age group indicates (as expected) a greater presence of non-Zionists and anti-Zionists among the youngest age cohorts. However, this presence within the survey respondent panel does not signal a dramatic decline in the share of those who self-identify as Zionists.

When respondents were asked whether, in general, their Jewish friends are Zionist or not, their responses indicated a greater prevalence of non-Zionist Jewish friends than their own self-definitions would have suggested. For example, 76% of Reform respondents self-identified as “Zionist,” but a substantially lower percentage of them (56%) said that most of their friends are “Zionist” (with a higher share of “somewhat Zionist”). It should be noted, however, that the Jewish social circles of respondents are not characterized by disapproval of Zionism. Even when we take into account that those who chose the option “There is no clear majority of any type of Zionist” have friendships with non-Zionists and with anti-Zionists, it is still clear that the Jewish social circles of most respondents consist of primarily Zionist or somewhat Zionist Jews. This of course likely reflects the panel’s composition, but perhaps also (with appropriate reservations) the fact that “non-Zionist” and “anti-Zionist” Jews have a greater presence in the media than they do in the lives of the Jews themselves (at least among those relatively “affiliated” Jews represented on the panel).

When the two questions – who are you and who are your friends – are cross-ref-erenced, we find that friendship circles have noticeable ideological characteristics.

A Common Jewish Future

In JPPI’s June Israeli Society Index, we identified a significant rise in the percentage of Israelis who agree with the statement that Israeli and Diaspora Jews have a common future. Compared with data from previous years, the percentage of Israeli Jews who “strongly agree” that all Jews have a “common future” jumped to more than half of all respondents. When factoring in those who “somewhat agree” with that statement, one finds that eight in ten Israeli Jews envision a “common future” for Israeli and Diaspora Jews. Agreement with this statement was lower (though still reaching 70%) among the secular, and 62% of those on the political left; the percentage was higher for all other respondent groups.

An identical question posed to American Jewish respondents on the Voice of the Jewish People panel elicited a similar finding, though not in all respects. Eighty percent in total – in Israel and the US – agree “somewhat” or “totally” with the statement that the two communities have a common future. JPPI’s president, Professor Yedidia Stern, refers to this as the “covenant of fate.” As in Israel, so too among American Jews, the tendency to agree with this statement is stronger for those who self-identify as Orthodox.

Survey Data and its Implications

This report is an analysis of a survey administered to 634 American Jews registered for JPPI’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 data on respondent visits to Israel, which is significantly higher than the average for all US Jews.

Data on survey participants (see adjacent table): About half self-identify as liberals; the percentage of respondents in mixed marriages is significantly lower than the average for the US Jewish community; the percentage of those affiliated with Conservative Judaism is higher than the percentage among all American Jews. The share of those unaffiliated with any religious stream is substantially lower than for American Jewry in general. Politically, the participants in this month’s survey lean conservative to a greater degree than in previous surveys. Survey respondents tend to visit Israel at a substantially higher rate than the American Jewish average.