Religious Americans more likely to support Israel — with growing exceptions

Compiled by Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, Aug. 8, 2014, 4:15 a.m. MDT

 Palestinians run for cover during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the war in the Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

Palestinians run for cover during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the war in the Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

(Majdi Mohammed, Associated Press)

As protests and counter-protests swirl around the recent clash between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a recent Gallup survey shows Americans who define themselves as "religious," as well as most Jews and Mormons, are among the top supporters of the Israeli position.

Even the less-religious tend to support Israel, Gallup said, though by not as great a margin.

"Over the past 14 years, on average, 66 percent of Americans who attend church weekly or almost every week are sympathetic to the Israelis, compared with 13 percent who are sympathetic to the Palestinians," a news release from Gallup stated. "Sympathy for Israel drops to 46 percent among those who never attend church, still twice as many as the 23 percent who are sympathetic to the Palestinians."

Gallup's statement continued, "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 percent of Americans have been sympathetic to the Israelis and 16 percent sympathetic to the Palestinians, with the rest saying 'both' or not having an opinion."

While 93 percent of American Jews tell Gallup they are pro-Israel, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not far behind: "Seventy-nine percent of Mormons are more sympathetic to Israelis," Gallup reported, versus 11 percent who say they support the Palestinians.

The polling firm says the higher levels of support from "religious Americans" for Israel "have been consistent" since Gallup has done the survey, which asks the question: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?"

Political affiliation may also have something to do with support levels. Gallup said among Republicans "as many as 80 percent" who attend church regularly are pro-Israel, versus 65 percent who are not weekly worshippers. Among Democrats, only 42 percent who say they don't attend worship are pro-Israel, Gallup reports.

Religious support for Israel has undergone shifts in recent years. In June, delegates to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) narrowly voted to divest from three U.S. companies that supply items potentially used by Israel's defense forces. Just before the Presbyterian vote, the United Methodist Church's pension board voted to sell shares of G4S, a security firm that does business with Israel, according to The New York Times.

Among younger evangelicals, David Brog of Christians United for Israel wrote in the Middle East Quarterly's spring 2014 issue, "there is a cadre of rising young evangelical stars who are bonding on trips to Israel and the Palestinian Authority and returning to push their fellow evangelicals away from the Jewish state. This is a largely well-coiffed and fashionably dressed bunch dedicated to marketing Christianity to a skeptical generation by making it cool, compassionate, and less overtly political."

Brog asserted, "the real danger is that they will teach their fellow evangelicals a moral relativism that will neutralize them."

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @Mark_Kellner

1. happy2bhere
clearfield, UT,
Aug. 8, 2014

I suspect that if Israel were lobbing in rockets to Gaza or the West Bank trying to kill Palistinians, and digging tunnels, kidnapping people, ect. then it would be the Palistianians who would get the most support. Religious or not, it is not hard to see who has been the troublemaker all these years. As for Mormons, and their support of Israel. I'm frankly bothered that there are some 20% who can't or won't see and accept the truth about Israel. To think I might be sitting next to a fellow member who actually thinks the Jews should be wiped out, which is the ultimate goal of the Palistinians, who elected Hamas to be their leaders, is very troubling. Hopefully it just comes from ignorance of the issue and is not an "informed" opinion.

2. Ranch
Here, UT,
Aug. 8, 2014

Moral relativism:

Israel can kill all the Palestinians they want and nothing happens. We give them another dozen fighter jets and a few tanks.

Palestinians kill any Israelies and we demand their heads on a pole.

That is moral relativism.

Thou shalt not kill (murder) applies to Israel every bit as much as to the Palestinians. After all, it was THEIR god who gave the commandment to not kill to THEM.

3. Karen R.
Houston, TX,
Aug. 8, 2014

"Brog asserted, 'the real danger is that they will teach their fellow evangelicals a moral relativism that will neutralize them.'"

Isn't the primary reason for Christian support of Israel tied to their Biblical prophecies? In other words, Christians need the Israelis to prevail in order for certain events to come about? Does it matter how this gets accomplished? If it doesn't, isn't this the definition of moral relativism?

Isn't it morally relativistic to support someone only because you need them for your own purposes - purposes that, if achieved, will reject and exclude them in the end?

4. Tekakaromatagi
Dammam, Saudi Arabia,
Aug. 8, 2014

I was raised in a home where my parent strongly supported Israel. In my early 20's I read the Old Testament and that changed my views. It said over and over, "Be kind to strangers" or "Do justice to the stranger" for "you were strangers in the land of Egypt". I could see how Israel was not doing that.

The inhabitants of the state of Israel are from the tribe of Judah. They don't own the name "Israel". Their ancestors were in the kingdom of Judah, not the kingdom of Israel. The ones who own the name "Israel" were scattered and the Old Testament says they will return. Today's 'Israelis' say that they are permanently lost and they've lost their identity so they get everything in terms of Judah's and Israel's share. This contradicts the OT.

Many of the Palestinians are descended from 1st century Christians who converted to Islam in the 700's. There are also many Christian Palestinians.

Evangelicals pray that Jews will accept Christ. They did. Many of them are in the West Bank and we know them as Christian Palestinians.

5. Bob A. Bohey
Marlborough, MA,
Aug. 8, 2014

The results of this poll or not surprising. IMVHO it just another example of the so called 'religious" in America being so very wrong on a topic. It makes no sense how one can identify as religious yet support an illegitimate, occupying and oppressive state that commits so many human rights violations as Israel does.