NEW YORK – A new survey indicates a growing divide in the United States between young evangelical Christians and their elders, especially in their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, indicating that Israel could see a significant drop in its support in coming years.
While the religious group has long been a bulwark of support for Israel in the United States, the poll administered by the Barna group commissioned by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke indicates a sharp decline in support for the state Jewish and raises concerns that Israel could lose a key ally in the future, its authors told The Times of Israel on Monday.
The poll was commissioned as part of their research for an upcoming book on the issue.
In a survey conducted between March and April of more than 700 evangelical Christians aged 18 to 29, respondents were asked to indicate where they place their support in the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Only 33.6% said with Israel, 24.3% with the Palestinians and 42.2% with neither side.
This marked a significant change from 2018, when a survey of young evangelicals conducted by the same UNCP professors, Motti Inbari and Kirill Bumin, found that 75% of those polled were on the Israel side instead. than Palestinians, while 22% preferred not to side with the Palestinians. the dispute. Only 2.8% expressed some support for the Palestinians at the time.
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Almost 45% of those polled now support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, 35.1% say they are neutral on the issue and only 20.5% oppose the idea of a Palestinian state , according to the 2021 poll, the results of which were shared with the Times of Israel. In 2018, the question on the subject was slightly different, but 29% of respondents said they opposed Israel’s land concessions for peace with the Palestinians.
More than 22% responded that Israel does not treat Palestinians fairly, 35.7% were neutral on the issue, while a plurality (41.5%) responded that Israel treats Palestinians fairly, according to the latter. survey.
The UNCP’s online survey of young evangelicals had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points with a confidence level of 95%.
Contextualizing their findings, Inbari and Bumin noted in a statement that evangelicals have historically supported Israel on the basis of their end-time theology, which links the creation of the State of Israel to the Second Coming of Jesus- Christ.
The teachers therefore chose to ask the young evangelicals if their opinions about Israel are based on their religious beliefs.
Notably, more than 44% of those polled said that their religious beliefs do not influence their assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over 38% said their religious beliefs made them view Israel more favorably, and 17.4% said their religious beliefs made them more supportive of Palestinians.
Regarding the issue of Jerusalem, only 28.4% of those polled said that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state, while 71.6% said the entire city should remain forever the capital of Israel.
Evangelical pressure was essential in getting former US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy to the city.
When asked to explain the gap between younger and older evangelicals, 34% of respondents said it had to do with ‘generational difference’, 22.5% said it had to do with young evangelicals being less knowledgeable about the conflict than older generations, and 29.8% said they did not know.
Almost half of those polled admitted to having very little or no knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While Israel is often seen as a major problem for evangelical voters, 65% of young respondents said they rarely or never hear about the importance of supporting the Jewish state, with only 12% saying that they hear it every week.
The inquiry was made public two weeks after former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer Former suggested that Israel should prioritize the “passionate and unequivocal” support of evangelical Christians over that of the Christians. American Jews, who he says are “disproportionately among our critics.”
“People need to understand that the backbone of Israel’s support for the United States is evangelical Christians. This is true because of the numbers and also because of their passionate and unequivocal support for Israel, ”Dermer said in an interview on stage at a conference hosted by Makor Rishon, a media affiliated with the national religious community of Israel. right of Israel.
“About 25% [of Americans] – some people think more – are evangelical Christians. Less than 2% of Americans are Jews, ”he said. “So if you’re just looking at the numbers, you should be spending a lot more time educating evangelical Christians than you would be spending on Jews.”
He highlighted “the passion and support” for Israel among evangelicals, saying Israel is one of the most important, if not the most important, issues for many of them, pitting the religious group against American Jews who , he said, are voting on other issues.
Former Israeli Ambassador to Washington in breathtaking interview tells Ron Dermer @amit_segal The backbone of Israel’s support for the United States is evangelical Christians, not American Jews @MakorRishon pic.twitter.com/g8UASanwDx
– Yonit Levi (@LeviYonit) May 9, 2021
However, the results of the UNCP survey indicated very different feelings among young evangelical Christians.
In a conversation with The Times of Israel, Inbari urged the Israeli government to pay attention to changing opinions among evangelicals, because “this is not a unified movement with one opinion. Opinions on Israel are divided. ”
“It has become evident that Israel is developing a public relations problem with young Americans. We see it with evangelicals as with American Jews and other groups, ”he added.
More moderate, not Trump fans
UNCP professors have also looked more broadly at the views of young evangelical Christians.
According to their study, 46% of respondents voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, compared to just 26% for Trump.
In addition, 20% said they did not vote at all and 48.5% said they were Democrats or in favor of the Democratic Party. About 40% said they were affiliated with or looking to the Republican Party.
Young evangelicals are more likely to see themselves as centrist or moderate (37.5%), rather than conservative (31%) or liberal (31.5%), according to the survey.
The Associated Press VoteCast survey after the election showed that 81% of all white evangelical voters supported Trump, compared with 18% who voted for Biden.
The 2021 UNCP survey found that among Republican and Republican-leaning respondents, 66.1% identified as white, while among Democratic and Democratic respondents, only 29.2% were identified as white.
A comparison of the 2018 and 2021 surveys also showed a change in young evangelicals’ perspective on Muslims, with 41.7% of respondents now voicing a positive opinion, up from 29% three years ago.
“What still remains unclear is whether these attitudes will change as this age group ages, becoming similar to the views of previous generations (and therefore more favorable to Israel), or whether their attitudes will remain critical in the face of it. ‘towards Israel even as young evangelicals age, ”Inbari and Bumin said in a statement.