WASHINGTON — The Bible Belt might represent the heart of Bush country, but a new study suggests that even among Jews, blue quickly turns to red at the sanctuary door.
Released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the new study found that while Jews generally tend to be more liberal than any religious group in America, significant differences exist between Jews who attend religious services regularly and those who don’t. Jews who attend synagogue services once a week or more are twice as likely to support the war in Iraq and to define themselves as politically conservative than Jews who seldom or never go to synagogue, according to the study.
The study, based on several extensive public-opinion polls conducted during the past three years, revealed a similar, widening political gap between churchgoers of all faiths and Americans who don’t frequent houses of prayer. “By far,” the report states, “the most powerful reality at the intersection of religion and politics is this: Americans who regularly attend worship services and hold traditional religious views increasingly vote Republican, while those who are less connected to religious institutions and are more secular in their outlook tend to vote Democratic.”
Jews accounted for more than 600, 500 and 100 — or about 2% — of the total people polled in the three respective surveys on which the study was based.
Among Jewish respondents, only 16% said they attend services weekly or more than once a week — compared to 42% of American voters. Fifty-two percentof Jews polled said they attend synagogue “once or twice times per month” or “few times a year” (the question was worded differently in two separate polls), and 31% said they attend “seldom” or “never.”
The views expressed by Jews, consistently — on almost every issue — were significantly more liberal than any other religious group and much more liberal than the national average.
Half of the Jews disagreed with the claim that the “the best way to ensure peace is through military strength” — more than any other religious affiliation. In comparison, a large majority of “committed” Caucasian evangelicals (72%) and “other” Caucasian evangelicals (62%) agreed with the statement. Americans overall agreed by a 59% to 37% margin.
Sixty-three percent of Jews, compared with 42% of all Americans, disagreed with the statement that “government regulation does more harm than good.” And 80% of Jews — far more than any religious group — disagreed with the statement that “school boards should have the right to fire gay teachers.” Among all Americans, only 34% disagreed.
Three-quarters of Jews — more than any other religious group, including black Protestants — disagreed with the statement that “discrimination against blacks is rare today.”
Though dramatic, such findings simply reinforce the decades-old view of American Jews leaning far to the left of their fellow voters. More surprising to some observers is likely to be the apparent existence of a significant gap between regular synagogue attendees and other Jews.
According to Scott Keeter, associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the polling data shows that the more frequently Jews attend synagogue services, the less liberal they tend to be.
A quarter of Jews who attend services at least once a week were likely to vote Republican, compared with 17% of those who attend services once or twice per month, and 13% who attend seldom or never.
Thirty-one percent of synagogue-goers were more likely to define themselves as politically conservative, while the figures for the other two groups remained the same.
The most outstanding gap between Jews who frequent synagogues and those who do not was on the question of Iraq. Overall, 38% of Jews backed the decision to go to war and 52% opposed it — in sharp contrast to the 54% of all Americans who said it was the right move and the 38% who disagreed. But when it comes to synagogue-goers, 63% of those who frequently attend said it was the right decision. Only 30% said it was wrong. Among those Jews who seldom or never attend services, the totals were reversed: Sixty-one percent said it was the wrong decision, and 32% said it was right. Among those who attend services once or twice a week, 53% disagreed with the decision and 38% agreed.
Of the 15 categories of religious affiliation in the poll, Jews were by far the best educated, with 53% who hold college degrees, and by far the best paid, with 40% making more than $75,000 per year. Jews also boasted a very high rate of voter registration, 84%, second only to a sub-group defined as “committed non-Hispanic Catholics.” Overall, 74% of Americans were registered to vote.