Still Connected: American Jewish Attitudes about Israel

The news last week that direct negotiations will take place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ensures that Israel will continue to be a focus of ongoing debate, in particular among American Jewry. The attitudes of American Jews have been much discussed in recent weeks, and some observers have described a growing schism between liberal Jewish young adults and Israel. These views, however, have not been informed by empirical data. A newly released study from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, “Still Connected: American Jewish Attitudes about Israel” is part of their effort to fill in the information gap and provide systematic data about contemporary American Jewish attitudes about Israel.

“Still Connected” is based primarily on a survey that was conducted in June 2010, beginning two weeks after the Gaza flotilla incident. Although some may be surprised at the findings (e.g., the stability in attitudes to Israel and the lack of correlation between political ideology and feelings about Israel), those involved in engaging American Jews and Israelis will recognize the respondents.

Among the findings:

  • 63% of respondents felt “very much” or “somewhat” connected to Israel. 75% agreed that caring about Israel is an important part of their Jewish identities. The findings, when compared to earlier surveys asking similar questions, indicate overall stability in American Jewish attachment to Israel over the past quarter-century.
  • Respondents under age 45 were less likely to feel connected to Israel but no less likely to regard Israel as important to their Jewish identities. Political differences on the liberal-to-conservative continuum were unrelated to attachment to Israel.
  • 52% of respondents characterized the current level of U.S. support for Israel as “about right”; 39% felt it was too little and 9% too much. Compared to a sample of likely U.S. voters who were recently asked the same question, American Jews were much less likely to regard the current level of U.S. support as too much.
  • 61% of respondents blamed “pro-Palestinian activists” for the flotilla incident; 10% blamed Israel. Compared to a sample of U.S. voters recently asked the same question, American Jews were more likely to blame the activists and less likely to blame the Israelis.

The complete report, along with a Hebrew executive summary, are available on the Cohen Center website.