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Religion Plays Large Role in Americans' Support for Israelis

Religion Plays Large Role in Americans' Support for Israelis

PRINCETON, NJ -- Religious Americans are significantly more likely than less religious Americans to be sympathetic to the Israelis in the Middle East situation. Over the past 14 years, on average, 66% of Americans who attend church weekly or almost every week are sympathetic to the Israelis, compared with 13% who are sympathetic to the Palestinians. Sympathy for Israel drops to 46% among those who never attend church, still twice as many as the 23% who are sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Americans’ Sympathies in Mideast Situation, by Church Attendance

These results are from an aggregated sample of more than 14,000 adults interviewed each February from 2001 to 2014 as part of Gallup's Foreign Affairs survey, and asked in survey: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?" Although Americans' sympathies have fluctuated over the years, more have been sympathetic toward the Israelis than the Palestinians every time they have been asked. Overall, an average of 59% of Americans have been sympathetic to the Israelis and 16% sympathetic to the Palestinians, with the rest saying "both" or not having an opinion.

Religious Americans' higher levels of sympathy for the Israelis have been consistent over the past 14 years, although percentages have fluctuated some from year to year. The difference between weekly church attenders and those who never attend has widened slightly in recent years, although it narrowed again in 2014.

Americans' Sympathies in Middle East Situation, by Political Party and Church Attendance

Religious Groups Vary in Sympathy Toward Israelis

Sympathy for Israelis is -- not surprisingly -- higher among U.S. Jews than among Americans in any other major religious group. More than nine in 10 Jews across the time span surveyed expressed sympathy for Israelis, while only 2% were more sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Seventy-nine percent of Mormons are more sympathetic to Israelis, followed by Protestants (66%) and Catholics (59%). The lowest level of sympathy is among the "nones" -- those without a formal religious identity -- among whom 45% express more sympathy for Israelis and 25% for the Palestinians.

Americans’ Sympathies in Mideast Situation, by Religious Identification

Religiousness Has Effect Within Both Major Political Parties

Americans' political party identification is strongly related to their sympathies for the two sides in the conflict, with Republicans much more sympathetic to Israelis than Democrats are. This relationship is also evident when Gallup recently asked Americans about the justification of the Israeli and Hamas military actions in the current conflict in Gaza.

Because Republicans on average attend religious services more frequently than Democrats, it is reasonable to assume that religiousness could be part of the explanation for why Republicans are more sympathetic to Israelis. But both party identification and religion independently affect Americans' sympathies. Church attendance is related to sympathies for Israelis among Republicans and Democrats, although the relationship is somewhat stronger among Republicans.

Americans' Sympathies in Middle East Situation, by Political Party and Church Attendance

As many as 80% of weekly church-attending Republicans are more sympathetic toward Israelis, with this number dropping to 65% among Republicans who never attend church. Among Democrats, there is little difference in sympathy for Israelis between those who attend weekly and monthly or seldom, but sympathy drops significantly to 42% among Democrats who never attend church.

Underscoring the possibility that partisanship is likely more influential than religion on these attitudes, nonreligious Republicans are more likely to sympathize with Israelis than highly religious Democrats.

Bottom Line

How religious Americans are, as measured by their religious service attendance, is a reliable indicator of their relative sympathy for Israelis over the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict. This relationship is evident among both Republicans and Democrats. Support for Israelis is also higher among U.S. Jews, Mormons, and Protestants than among other religious groups.

There are several possible reasons for the relationship between religiousness and support for Israelis. Many explanations focus on roles that Israel and Israelis play in the Bible, the centrality of the saga of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the promises God made in the Old Testament to the ancient prophets that he would create a promised land for them. Some evangelical Christians also connect Israel to their views of the second coming of Christ at Armageddon.

Although highly religious Christians in the U.S. strongly tilt toward the Republican Party, and U.S. Jews tilt strongly toward the Democratic Party, support for Israelis over the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict is one issue that unites these otherwise politically disparate groups.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of 14 separate Gallup polls conducted each February from 2001 to 2014, each based on a random sample of approximately 1,000 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The margin of sampling error for results based on the total sample of each year's survey, and for subgroups based on church attendance, religious identification, and political identification, will vary depending on the sample size involved.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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