Support among Jews for an American military strike against Iran has declined during the past year, according to an annual survey of American Jewish opinion released Monday.
The survey, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, found that only 38% of American Jews support American military action, down from 49% last year. But, according to this year’s survey, 57% back an Israeli strike against the Islamic Republic.
“What it means is that a majority of people are prepared to support military action, but by one country and not another country,” said the AJCommittee’s executive director, David Harris. The discrepancy may be explained by an overall lack of Jewish confidence in the Bush administration, he speculated. According to the poll, only 33% support the way America is handling the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, and 65% believe that the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.
The survey of 958 American Jews was conducted between September 25 and October 16. The margin of error was plus or minus 3%.
In its press release and on its Web site, the AJCommittee played up the finding that 81% of American Jews agreed that the goal of the Arab nations remains the destruction of Israel, and only 38% said they believed Israel and the Arabs ultimately would be able to live in peace. Yet, the survey also found that by a 54%-38% margin American Jews back the establishment of a Palestinian state and that support for dividing Jerusalem as part of a peace deal had increased.
On this summer’s Lebanon conflict, 55% approved of Israel’s handling of the war, though fewer than a quarter of respondents believed the Jewish state had emerged the winner. Forty-six percent believed the conflict likely would lead to a wider regional war.
The survey, conducted annually since 1997, also found little change in American Jewish political affiliation, with 54% of American Jews identifying themselves as Democrats and 29% as independents, unchanged from last year.
The proportion of Republicans declined slightly, from 16% to 15%.
Asked which party is more likely to take appropriate action on the war in Iraq, the economy and the war on terrorism, roughly a quarter chose the Republicans, while more than half said Democrats.
Jewish affinity for the Democrats remained strong despite two polls this summer indicating a significant partisan gap in support for Israel and a slew of Republican advertisements through the fall seeking to capitalize on the surveys.
The AJCommittee’s survey also reports a slight rise in the percentage of American Jews who said that being Jewish is important in their lives, to 61% from 55% last year, while 74% said caring about Israel is a very important part of being a Jew.
Only 26% said they think antisemitism in the United States is a very serious problem.
American Jews appear to be the most unified on the need to achieve energy independence, with 81% saying achieving the goal is very important and another 19% saying it is important. Nearly three-quarters said that the best way for America to handle its energy needs was through the development of alternative energy sources, compared to 5% who say the best course is to encourage greater energy production and 9% who prefer greater energy conservation.