Jews in this country have a lower opinion of the moral and political behavior of President Trump than do members of other religions, although they are showing signs of ambivalence when it comes to his handling of “Jewish” issues.
Those are among the findings of a public opinion survey released March 12 by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.
According to the study of 6,395 adults in the United States, which centered on the feelings of white Evangelical Protestants but included responses from 303 Jews, Jews are more likely (89 percent) to consider Trump “self-centered” and more likely to see the president as “prejudiced.” The “self-centered” figures for white Christians are 77 percent; black Protestants, 76 percent; Hispanic Catholics, 65 percent. And Jews are more likely than Christians to disapprove of “the way Donald Trump conducts himself.”
These disparate findings between Jews and members of other religions reflect the political and religious divide between them and Evangelicals, who are overwhelmingly Republican, said Claire Gecewicz, head researcher on the study, which was conducted Feb. 4-15. Past surveys and voting patterns have shown that “Jews tend to identify with the Democratic Party,” Gecewicz said.
Jews – along with black Protestants and Hispanics – were least likely to say that they agreed with Trump on “all/nearly all/many issues.”
Asked whether the Trump administration has “helped or hurt” Jews in this country, 40 percent of Jews said “helped,” while 36 percent said “hurt” (23 percent believed he had neither hurt nor helped). The respective figures for white Evangelical Protestants – asked whether the administration helped or hurt them – are 57 percent and 10 percent.
The 40 percent positive, 36 percent negative response to the “help or hurt” question contrasts with a 2018 survey of Jews by the American Jewish Committee, which found a strong majority, 57 percent, disapproving of Trump’s handling of US-Israel relations.
Steven Bayme, national director of contemporary Jewish life at the American Jewish Committee, suggests this points to what he calls increased Jewish “ambivalence” on Trump when it comes to Jewish issues, particularly Israel.
Over the last two years, the administration has taken such steps as moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel and widely supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on many issues, Bayme said. While hailed on the right, such moves were also welcomed, sometimes warmly, sometimes tepidly, by Jewish groups in the center and center-left.
The Pew study did not break down the Jewish figures according to denominational or political party affiliation, although Bayme suspects that “Pew reflects the partisan reality that Jewish Democrats largely oppose Trump and Jewish Republicans support him.” That is especially apparent in the Orthodox community, where Trump is mostly seen as “unequivocally pro-Israel.”
Among other findings:
By a wide margin over members of other religions, Jews consider themselves “part of a minority group because of [their] religious beliefs”;
Jews are more likely than Christians to feel that “Christianity’s influence on American life is increasing”;
Only one percent of Jews could identify the president’s religious affiliation, compared to 33 percent for Protestants and eight percent for Catholics;
Only 12 percent of Jews expressed a strong preference for a president “with strong religious beliefs even if they are different from your own”;
Jews are more likely than Christians to feel that the Trump administration has hurt Muslims;
Jews are less likely than most Christians, by a wide margin, to agree that “the Bible should have a great deal of influence on laws of U.S.” and to agree that the Bible should have “more influence … when Bible and will of people conflict.”
The last figures show how fewer Jews in this country share the religious leanings of the Orthodox, Bayme said. “It shows how secular we have become.
The Pew study had a margin of error of 7.9 percent.