Swords of Iron

Voice of the People Index, December 2023

Main Findings

  • U.S. Jews continue to follow the war at a high rate, and discussed it over the Thanksgiving holiday
  • Broad support across Jewish groups for the need to continue the war to topple Hamas
  • About half of “very liberal” Jews believe that Israel is “too aggressive” in the war
  • A drop in the sense of threat to personal security due to the war
  • among U.S. Jews
  • A high proportion of Orthodox are considering aliyah in response to increased antisemitism
  • Many Jews are more careful about displaying Jewish symbols in response to increasing antisemitism
  • Continued general decline in the assessment of Israeli public messaging during the war

Following the Events of the War: Detailed Findings

Between the first and third weeks of the fighting there was a slight decrease in the level survey respondents were following the unfolding war, but data for the seventh week does not indicate a further decline. A significant majority of respondents still monitor it “very closely.”

  Closely Following the War
Week 1 Week 3 Week 7
Political

Identification

Strong Liberal 85% 78% 79%
Leaning liberal 86% 79% 83%
Centrist 96% 91% 91%
Leaning conservative 92% 88% 87%
Strong conservative 93% 95% 94%

 

The Sense of Threat: Detailed Findings

In the initial weeks of the Israel-Hamas war, a significant number of respondents reported an increase in their sense of personal threat. Concern about the impact of the war on the security of U.S. Jews was already evident in the first week, and this fear intensified according to JPPI’s third-week follow-up survey. However, our third survey, conducted in the days after Thanksgiving, shows a discernible decline in the sense of threat across most Jewish groups. Although the level remains high, if this trend continues, it would indicate that the sharp increase in threat perception observed at the war’s outset, when significant attention was ubiquitous, may diminish further as interest wanes (in part because the fighting itself has stopped).

Response to Antisemitism: Detailed Findings

A certain percentage of survey respondents stated that making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) is a viable option in response to the increase in antisemitic phenomena. This response was measured in the context of a question that presented a selection of possible responses, and it is particularly noticeable among ultra-Orthodox and religious Jews, about a third of whom indicated it was a possibility. About a quarter of respondents across various groups said they would consider joining a Jewish defense organization. About a third said they would be more careful about wearing Jewish symbols.

Response to Antisemitism
Aliyah to Israel Join a defense league More cautious about wearing Jewish symbols
Stream No Stream 22% 23% 31%
Reform 11% 26% 41%
Conservative 16% 21% 27%
Orthodox 35% 26% 31%
Ultra-Orthodox 39% 39% 25%

In a question concerning antisemitism, the option to answer that “reports of antisemitism are exaggerated” was offered. A small percentage of Jews from all sectors and streams opted for this response, as seen in the table. That is, the slight decrease in fear about personal security does not correlate with a corresponding belief that there was or is some exaggeration of the problem faced by U.S. Jews.

  Rise in Antisemitism is Exaggerated
Political

Identification

Strong liberal 8%
Liberal leaning 3%
Centrist 4%
Conservative leaning 5%
Strong conservative 2%

 After the Temporary Ceasefire: Detailed Findings

The majority of respondents accept the Israeli position that the war must continue until Hamas is subdued. When asked whether, after the temporary pause, the fighting should be renewed until Hamas is removed from power, or whether the pause should lead to an end of hostilities even at the cost of Hamas remaining in power, a clear majority from all groups and across all political orientations favored renewing the fighting. However, among those identifying as very liberal, a substantial proportion (21%) called for an end to the war, and another significant percentage would rely on President Biden’s position on this matter. In this context, it is important to note that the weight of this group in the JPPI survey is relatively large (it is the largest group, 31%). About half of American Jews describe themselves as “liberal” according to Pew Research Center data), and this is also their share in the JPPI survey (31% very liberal + 21% liberal).

  What Needs to Happen after the Ceasefire Expires
End of war Fighting until Hamas is deposed I accept whatever Pres. Biden’s position is I accept whatever Israel’s position is
Political

Identification

Strong liberal 21% 54% 21% 4%
Liberal leaning 6% 70% 15% 10%
Centrist 1% 90% 2% 7%
Conservative leaning 0% 91% 1% 8%
Strong conservative 0% 97% 0% 3%

 

This question also indicates a major gap between those who view their connection to Israel as an important component of their Jewish identity, nearly 90% of whom accept the need for continuing the fighting. On the other hand, among those who strongly disagree that connection to Israel is important, a huge majority (93%) want the fighting to end. In the JPPI survey, there is a high proportion of those who feel connected to Israel, and it exceeds their share of the total population of American Jews.

Impression of Israel’s Actions: Detailed Findings

A minority of survey respondents expressed the view that Israel’s actions during the war are “much too” aggressive, and most of them believed that the intensity of the actions ranges from “a little too aggressive” to “not aggressive enough” – with the largest proportion of the sample believing that Israel’s actions “are aggressive to the correct extent.” In relation to this question, a significant disparity is evident according to political positions. Among the very liberal, a substantial number – about a quarter of respondents – believe that Israel is much too aggressive, and about half of this very liberal group believes that it is too aggressive (a little too much or much too much). On the other hand, among conservative Jews a significant proportion (especially among the “very conservative”) believe that Israel is not aggressive enough in its wartime actions. The proportion of respondents who said that Israel is “much too aggressive” was relatively high among those who have never visited Israel (22%); in contrast to the very low percentage among those who have lived in Israel (4%). Among those who have lived in Israel, about a quarter of the respondents (24%) believed that Israel is not aggressive enough.

  Israel’s Actions in Gaza
Much too aggressive A little too aggressive Not aggressive enough Right level Don’t Know
Political

Identification

Strong liberal 27% 24% 34% 5% 10%
Liberal leaning 6% 22% 47% 7% 17%
Centrist 1% 7% 58% 20% 12%
Conservative leaning 3% 1% 57% 34% 5%
Strong conservative 0% 0% 44% 55% 2%

 

Conversations About the War: Detailed Findings

As one would expect, Jews are talking about the war – which has dominated the headlines of newspapers and television for the past two months. The survey, conducted in the days just after Thanksgiving, provides insight into the extent of the “presence” the war had at family holiday dinners. The majority of respondents attested to conversations about Israel and the war during the holiday; the great majority indicating that these discussions were conducted without argument. A small minority reported a tense atmosphere during these conversations. It is possible that the rate of tense conversations was low, in part, because some families had agreed in advance not to discuss the topic in order to avoid arguments. This agreement, which was also mentioned as a possibility in several prominent opinion columns in the U.S. press, was evident among close to a tenth of Reform and a little less than that among Conservative Jews. Among those with no denominational affiliation, about a third reported that there was no conversation about the war during the holiday.

Discussed the War at Thanksgiving
Stream No Stream 45%
Reform 58%
Conservative 62%
Orthodox 71%
Ultra-Orthodox 67%

 Israeli Public Messaging: Detailed Findings

In the seventh week of the war, the downward trend in assessing the quality of Israeli public messaging continued, primarily among very liberal and fairly liberal Jews. This decrease may be due to several factors, including the diminishing impact of initial impressions of the atrocities, the continuing increase in the number of Gazan casualties and refugees, shifts in the tone of the American media, among others. It is notable that the clear decrease in the assessment of the quality of Israeli public messaging as being good appears to be a consistent trend, mainly in the most liberal group (from 71% to 41% within six weeks).

Even compared to the data JPPI presented a month ago, in the number of Israel visits cross-section, there is a noticeable decrease in the assessment of Israel’s public messaging by all groups, but it is particularly clear among respondents who have visited or lived in Israel.

Israel Does a Very Good or Good Job Communicating its Side of the Story
Week 1 Week 3 Week 7
Visits to Israel Never visited Israel 75% 65% 64%
Visited once 75% 65% 56%
Visted more than once 75% 61% 52%
Lived in Israel 72% 63% 52%

Survey Data and its Significance

This report presents an analysis of a survey conducted among 585 Jews in the United States who are registered with JPPI’s Kol HaAm panel. While the report does not provide a weighted figure representative of all U.S. Jews, the number of participants from various groups allows for identifying trends, distinct positions, as well as gaps between different Jewish groups according to denominational affiliation, closeness to Israel, political orientation, connection to Judaism, and more.

Demographic data about survey participants: 52% of respondents identify as liberal or very liberal. About 20% self-identify as centrist, and the rest are conservative leaning. This distribution is aligned with the generally accepted political division of U.S. Jews (although with a slightly higher percentage of conservatives in the JPPI survey). Survey respondents tended to visit Israel at a significantly higher rate compared to the American Jewish average (81% had visited Israel at least once). The share of Jews affiliated with the Conservative stream is higher than in the overall Jewish population, and the proportion of Jews who do not belong to any stream is relatively low. The rate of mixed marriages is also relatively low in the JPPI panel compared to the intermarriage rate in the general Jewish population (over 50% of all American Jews, whereas it is about 20% in the panel’s sample of married individuals). However, even though the survey participants are not exactly a representative sample of American Jewry, the survey is based on a considerable number of respondents.