- A new Insider poll found that nearly half of American Jews believe Israel is used as a political tool among US lawmakers. Half of the broader American public agree.
- It was higher among self-identified Democratic voters, 55% of whom said they believed Israel was used for political purposes.
- That sentiment was lower among self-identified Republicans, 45% of whom believed the same.
- The data underscores President Donald Trump’s misunderstanding of Jewish voters’ political behavior heading into the 2020 presidential race as single-issue voters on Israel.
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A new Insider poll found that nearly half of American Jews believe Israel is used as a political tool among US politicians, as well as half of the broader American public.
It was higher among self-identified Democratic voters, 55% of whom said they believed Israel was used for political purposes. That sentiment was lower among self-identified Republicans, 45% of whom believed the same.
The data underscores President Donald Trump’s misunderstanding of Jewish voters’ political behavior heading into the 2020 presidential race as single-issue voters on Israel. Though he’s recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, adopted a hardline approach against Iran, and offered legitimacy to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, Trump has been reportedly frustrated about his lack of support among US Jews.
Trump sparked immediate controversy late last month when he lashed out at Jews who back Democrats.
“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said just outside the White House in August.
Jewish groups quickly blasted the president’s use of the word “disloyalty” as being insensitive and for echoing anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish loyalty.
Polling from the Pew Research Center in 2013 found that around 76% of Jews who identified by their religion were at least somewhat emotionally attached to Israel. But the majority of American Jews have been a solid Democratic voting group for decades, with many holding liberal views on issues like gay rights. The same Pew poll also found American Jews were more supportive of a larger government that provided more services.
American Jews believe Israel is used as a political weapon, and they overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump
Insider asked 3,339 respondents over the course of a month about their views on Israel and how the Jewish state has been used by American politicians. Of those respondents, 1,557 identified as Christian, 1,137 identified as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular,” 127 identified Buddhist or Hindu, 102 identified as Jewish, 42 identified as Muslim, and 155 identified as something else. (The remaining 219 respondents declined to disclose their religious beliefs.) The question: “How do you feel about lawmakers invoking Israel in the current political climate?“
Respondents were then told to select one of five gradual statements that aligned with their view about Israel in American politics.
Here is how the data broke down:
- Around 28% of all respondents believed that “political figures often invoke Israel as a political tool more than genuine concern for the state.” This statement spiked seven points higher at 35% among self-identified Democratic respondents and it drew 25% support from self-identified GOP voters. 31% of self-identified Jews believed the same.
- 27% of all respondents said “I don’t know.” Around 22% of Democrats and 20% of Republicans were unsure as well. And 18% of Jews expressed similar uncertainty.
- 18% of the public said they didn’t think “American politicians actually care about Israel at all, and strictly use it as a political tool.” Among Democrats, this belief stood at 20% compared to 13% for self-identified Republicans. Then 16% of self-identified Jews agreed with the statement.
- Around 17% of respondents said they believed “on some rare occasions political figures invoke Israel as a political tool more than actual concern for Israel.” Meanwhile, 21% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats agreed with the statement. The trend held among Jewish voters at 20%.
- Only 10% of all respondents believed “Israel is referenced almost entirely in good faith when discussing ongoing American domestic issues.” In stark contrast, 20% of Republican voters said they held this belief compared to 5% of Democratic voters.
Trump has thrust Israel into the middle of the political debate at several points during his presidency, hoping to draw more backing from a voting group that largely backed Democrats in the 2016 presidential election. Only 23% of Jewish voters supported Trump compared to 71% who voted for his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, exit polling showed.
Yet an aggregate poll from Gallup taken from January to August of this year showed Trump’s disapproval rating among Jewish voters stood at 69%. Last year, that same Gallup data showed 71% disapproved of his job performance, indicating Trump has made little inroad among them so far.
Trump has rooted a core part of his appeal to Christian evangelicals, a voting group which strongly leans conservative and been staunch in its support for the president. In another Pew poll conducted earlier this year, they were less likely than Jews to say Trump favors Israel too much in his foreign policy. The Insider poll found this group was evenly split on the question of Israel being politicized — 34% believed politicians rarely or never used it as a political weapon, compared to 36% who said it was wielded as a tool at least more often than not or always.
By stark contrast, religiously unaffiliated voters such as atheists overwhelmingly believed Israel is used as a political tool. Around 66% of atheist voters believed politicians used Israel as a political weapon more of the time or always, compared to 13% who believed it was invoked as a political tool rarely or none of the time.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,184 respondents collected July 19-20, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.01 percentage points with a 95% confidence level. Total 1,111 respondents collected August 1, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.01 percentage points with a 95% confidence level. Total 1,092 respondents collected August 16-17, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.06 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.