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The Influence of Jewish Values and Political Activity. At least 8-in-10 American Jews say that pursuing justice (84%) and caring for the widow and the orphan (80%) are somewhat or very important values that inform their political beliefs and activity.
- More than 7-in-10 also say that tikkun olam, healing the world (72%), and welcoming the stranger (72%) are somewhat or very important values.
- A majority (55%) say that seeing every person as made in the image of God is somewhat or very important in informing their political beliefs and activity.
The Influence of Jewish Experiences and Political Activity. More than 8-in-10 Jews say that the experiences of the Holocaust (87%) and having opportunities for economic success in America (85%) are somewhat or very important for informing their political beliefs and activity. Seven-in-ten (70%) Jews cite the immigrant experience in America, and approximately two-thirds (66%) say that being a religious minority in America has a somewhat or very important influence on their political beliefs and activity.
Core Qualities of Jewish Identity. When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46%) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20%) or religious observance (17%). Fewer than 1-in-10 say that a sense of cultural heritage and tradition (6%) or a general set of values (3%) are most important to their Jewish identity.
Issue Priorities for the 2012 Election. The most important issue for Jewish registered voters ahead of the 2012 election is the economy, with 51% reporting that this issue would be most important to their vote.
- Fifteen percent cite the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and about 1-in-10 report that health care and the federal deficit (10% and 7% respectively) are the most important issues to their vote this year.
- Other issues that fall at the bottom of the priority list are national security (4%), Israel (4%), Iran (2%), the environment (1%), immigration (1%), same-sex marriage (1%), and abortion (1%).
The 2012 Presidential Vote. Eight months before the 2012 election, 62% of Jewish voters say they would like to see Obama re-elected in 2012, more than twice the number who say they would prefer that a Republican candidate win the election (30%).
- Current support for Obama among Jewish voters is significantly higher than the general population and nearly identical to levels of support for Obama among Jewish registered voters at a comparable point in the 2008 campaign.
- Among Jewish voters who prefer that a Republican candidate win the 2012 election, Mitt Romney has the greatest support (58%), followed by Rick Santorum (15%), Newt Gingrich (13%), and Ron Paul (12%).
- Among Jewish voters who say they supported Barack Obama in 2008, an overwhelming majority (86%) say they would like to see the President re-elected; only 7% of Jewish voters who supported Obama in 2008 say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win the 2012 election.
- Jewish voters who supported John McCain in 2008 demonstrate similar loyalty in their voting preferences, with 92% reporting that they would prefer it if a Republican candidate won the election.
Favorability and Approval of President Obama. Although American voters overall are more likely to have a favorable view of Obama personally than to rate his job performance positively, Jewish voters evaluate Barack Obama roughly the same on these two metrics. More than 6-in-10 Jewish voters report having a very favorable (15%) or mostly favorable (46%) view of Barack Obama. Roughly 6-in-10 (58%) Jewish voters also say they approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President, compared to 34% who disapprove.
Economic Opportunity and Inequality. American Jews are not anti-wealth nor anti-Wall Street, but overall nearly three-quarters (73%) say that the United States’ economic system unfairly favors the wealthy.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of American Jews agree that the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, while roughly one-third (35%) disagree.
- More than 8-in-10 (81%) favor increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million a year, compared to 17% who oppose this policy.
Attitudes toward American Muslims. Two-thirds (66%) of American Jews agree that American Muslims are an important part of the religious community in the United States, compared to 32% who disagree. Similarly, only about 1-in-5 (22%) American Jews believe that American Muslims ultimately want to establish Shari’a or Islamic law as the law of the land in the United States, compared to 76% who disagree.
Diplomacy and Military Action. By a margin of more than 2 to 1, American Jews say that good diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace (63% vs. 24% respectively). In the case of Iran, if diplomacy and other deterrents fail, most American Jews support military action. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) American Jews agree that the U.S. should take military action to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon if economic sanctions are unable to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, compared to 37% who disagree.
Problems for Israel. More than 8-in-10 American Jews rank the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (90%) and Iran’s nuclear program (83%) as major problems within Israel. A majority (53%) of American Jews also agree that Ultra-Orthodox control of religious life in Israel is a major problem, while only 4-in-10 (38%) cite economic and social inequality in Israel as a major problem.
Relations between Israel and the U.S. A majority (54%) of American Jews say that relations between Israel and the U.S. are about the same as they have been in the past, while 7% say they are better, and 37% say they are worse.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict. When asked to describe their opinions about President Obama’s handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict, American Jews are divided. Twenty percent report that they agree with the President’s policies and that they like the way he is executing these policies. Fifteen percent say that they agree with the President’s policies but don’t like the way he is executing these policies. About 3-in-10 (28%) say they disagree with the President’s policies.
- Notably, over one-third (36%) of American Jews say they are not sure about their opinion of how President Obama is handling the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- A slim majority (53%) of American Jews say that, generally speaking, they would support the establishment of a Palestinian state, while 42% say they would be opposed.
Synagogues and Public Activities. There is strong agreement among American Jews about the types of activities in which synagogues should be engaged. There is near unanimity (96%) in the belief that synagogues should be involved in acts of charity.
- Approximately three-quarters (76%) of American Jews also agree that synagogues should be engaged in public policy advocacy to address social problems.
- In contrast, more than 7-in-10 (71%) say that synagogues should not be involved in supporting political campaigns or candidates.
Importance of Jewish Holidays. When asked about the most important Jewish holiday to them personally, a plurality (43%) of Jews named Yom Kippur, followed by Passover (25%), Hanukkah (10%), and Rosh Hashanah (10%). More than two-thirds (68%) of Jews say they are planning to participate in a Passover Seder this year. Strong majorities of nearly every demographic group report that they are planning to attend a Seder this year.
The 2012 Jewish Values Survey was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute among a random sample of 1,004 self-identified Jewish adults (ages 18 and older) who are part of the Knowledge Networks’ KnowledgePanel. Interviews were conducted online between February 23 and March 5, 2012. The margin of sampling error for the entire sample is +/- 5.0 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The survey was funded by a generous grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.