February 27, 2014

Strong support for Israel in U.S. cuts across religious lines

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which holds its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., beginning Sunday, is sometimes referred to as the “Jewish lobby.” But its mission is as an Israel lobby, and when it comes to public backing for that country in the U.S., evangelical Christians are even more supportive of Israel than American Jews by some measures.

U.S. support for Israel by religionAIPAC itself has taken note of that fact, making clear that its work is not limited to Jews. Its website refers to activists across all religions and says that “the evangelical Christian community plays an increasingly vital role.

Pew Research surveys find that similar shares of Christians (29%) and Jews (31%) say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel. Among white evangelical Protestants, nearly half (46%) say that the U.S. is not providing enough support for Israel.

When asked whether God gave Israel to the Jewish people, more Christians (55%) than Jews (40%) say yes (although virtually all of the discrepancy is explained by Jews’ lower levels of belief in God overall). And the share of white evangelicals saying that God gave Israel to the Jews (82%) is on par with the percentage of Orthodox Jews who believe this (84%).

This year’s conference comes at a sensitive time for AIPAC, which has been at odds with the White House over a Senate bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. When we asked Americans in 2012 what the U.S. should do if Israel attacks Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear program, 64% of white evangelicals said “support Israel,” while just 39% of the general public agreed.

Support for Israel among U.S. evangelicals is high.Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians amid a Palestinian-led, international movement of “boycott, divestment and sanctions” directed against Israel as a response to the Jewish presence in the West Bank.

When it comes to the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, asked whether they sympathize with either side, 72% of white evangelicals sided with Israel in the dispute while 4% picked the Palestinians, according to a March 2013 survey. Among U.S. adults overall, 49% sympathized more with Israel and 12% with the Palestinians. Half (50%) of white evangelicals said there is no way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, a view held by just a third (33%) of U.S. Jews and 41% of the general public.


Topics: Religion and U.S. Politics, Middle East and North Africa, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Foreign Affairs and Policy

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Jiang Lao2 years ago

    Very good, most Chinese people support Israel as well!

  2. Katherine3 years ago

    I would argue that most of those citizens polled do not actually have a firm grasp on the realities of the support given to the United States. I would like to see a poll that questions such knowledge.

  3. pasadena bob3 years ago

    Before polling people, I wonder if it wouldn’t be a worthwhile approach to find out how much of the public is anti-Semitic and how much of the public has no such feelings. Then classify the polling results into those two groups as well as what you have done (combining the two groups’ results). Three columns: those without bigoted thoughts, those free of bigoted thoughts, and combined thoughts. The Jews are unique in that Christianity looked down on them until about 1950’s; the changes in Christian thinking will take centuries to erase even after the recent popes acknowledged Catholicism was the seat of anti-Semitism. I realize this might seem too difficult to accomplish but by a series of questions you might easily get such results. Be fascinating to see.

  4. Thomas Smith3 years ago

    the title is very misleading, the support is from the same white supremacist with sightly different cover stories. true, some of them are white skinned and some are black skinned but they all believe in a white jesus and god; how about asking the other religious beliefs that are in this country? how about asking the atheist?.
    Israle and the zionist are just the latest land theft by europeans, the particular superstition they believe is irrelevant they are of the same mind as all of the other european land thieves we know about for the last 300 years.

  5. Edison3 years ago

    (Zechariah​​ 9:1 – 8)
    1 The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD.
    2 And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.
    3 And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets.
    4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.
    5 Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.
    6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.
    7 And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.
    8 And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.

  6. Duane3 years ago

    This makes me wonder whatever happened to the Canaanites? In a brief reading of Deuteronomy, I find a lot about the laws the Israelites were to follow to gain the Lord’s help so they could conquer Canaan and “get rid of” the nations already living there. It tells what to do with the Canaanites belongings (destroy all) but does not reveal what happens to the people after they are gotten rid of. Is their fate mentioned in other parts of the Bible I did not read?

  7. Dr. Brian+L.+Horejsi3 years ago

    Talk about misleading questioning in the Israel support “poll! Wow, so much for non political objectivity. IF you had asked about too much, which you should have done, what would be the spread?

    Pick it up people. this is misleading, and I would have thought, below PEW??

  8. Bill Threlkeld3 years ago

    What we have to realize is that the support of “white evangelicals” for Israel has nothing to do with support for political Israel, cultural Israel, or religious Israel. The support has all to do with the belief that Jesus’ second coming and their (white evangelicals) entering Heaven for an eternity of comfort and bliss is contingent upon the Jewish occupation of geographical Israel. That is, Jesus will not come until Palestine is under Jewish control.

    1. Concerned Citizen3 years ago

      Jews dont believe Jesus had a first coming

  9. Merriwether3 years ago

    The Leftish side of the USA, as on too many issues, continues to “think” only at an easy and easily visible level.

    Not to say Israelis have been blameless in their dealings with aggressors; they have not. There have been excesses.

    But if you had to clean up the fragmented human remains of a school bus blown apart by a particular political faction, would you be the example of mercy and forgiveness?

    As always, we must look not to who is most aggressive in a fight, but to who first takes it from the verbal or negotiating level, and makes it physically harmful.

    1. Bill R.3 years ago

      “we must look not to who is most aggressive in a fight, but to who first takes it from the verbal or negotiating level, and makes it physically harmful”

      I’d say military occupation and displacement is physically harmful, and who started this?

  10. Peter Gries3 years ago

    The survey data you report in this article and in the first chart do not support the claim made in the article title. Mainline Protestants (black and white) and Catholics (white and Hispanic) are NOT as supportive of Israel as Evangelical Protestants are. And if you were to add the substantial number of Americans who are secular to your chart, you would see even larger differences: secular Americans are ambivalent towards Israel, and desire a more evenhanded US policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. Support for Israel in the US, in short, does NOT cut across religious lines.

    Peter Gries
    Harold J. & Ruth Newman Chair & Director
    Institute for US-China Issues, the University of Oklahoma
    338 Cate Center Dr., Room 401
    Norman, Oklahoma, 73019-2105
    PHONE: 405/325-1962; FAX: 405/325-7738

    1. Michael Lipka3 years ago


      Thanks for reading and for your observations. The intention of the headline is to communicate that strong support for Israel cuts across some religious lines, not necessarily all. Your statement about mainline Protestants and Catholics is accurate. And you can get an idea of secular Americans’ views from the bottom row of the chart: “Unaffiliated” includes atheists, agnostics and those who identify with no particular religion.

      Michael Lipka

    2. Natalie Roberts3 years ago

      The main reason, in my opinion, that Israel does not receive the support it deserves is that the media is overwhelmingly liberal and does not report the news about Israel with objectivity. For example, rockets have been hitting Israel for several years, since Israel unilaterally left Gaza, causing its citizens to run for bomb shelters with very little time to do so. Their children are traumatized by the bombs and require psychological care. Only when Israel OCCASIONALLY reacts to the bombs by PINPOINTING bombsites and Hamas leaders in Gaza is there any mention of fighting, with the emphasis of the “journalists” on the discriminating damage Israel did, with hardly a mention of the constant rockets causing the IDF action. Headlines of articles are misleading and dishonest. If more Americans were given the FACTS they would understand that Israel is under seige, surrounded by enemies who are well-armed by Russia, Iran, Syria.