The 2012 Jewish Values Survey is out. Some interesting stuff in this PDF (executive summary here) concerning the 2012 presidential election and the influence of Jewish values on political action. But what I wanted to draw out was the findings on Jewish sentiments toward other religious groups. Specifically, the Public Religion Research Institute asked about Mormons, Muslims and “the Christian Right.” Mormons and Muslims cleaned up.
At his Jews and Mormons blog, Mark Paredes characterizes the survey findings as a wake-up call to Jewish leaders who have worked to build bonds with evangelicals (though the survey asked about the Christian Right):
When asked to rate the three religious groups on a scale of 1 to 100, Jews scored Mormons at 47, Muslims at 41.4, and Evangelicals at an embarrassing 20.9. This survey represents a reality check for those prominent Jews who have worked hard for years to convince their coreligionists that Evangelicals are their best friends. However, they shouldn’t be surprised. With all due respect to Messrs. Prager, Medved et al., Evangelicals as a group largely deserve the poor grade they received.
Evangelicals often tout their suppport for Israel as evidence of their goodwill towards Jews. However, the poll clearly shows once again that Israel, rightly or wrongly, is not the number one concern of most American Jews. Once you factor their laudable support for Israel out of the equation, what do Evangelicals have to say to Jews? Apparently not a whole lot. Some writers have pointed to liberal Jews’ disdain for Evangelicals’ conservative Republican politics as the prime mover behind the survey results. However, Mormons are the reddest religious group in the country, Utah is the most Republican state, and the LDS Church has been rather active recently in campaigns opposing gay marriage around the country. None of these “negatives” prevented Jews from expressing over a 2-to-1 preference for Mormons over Evangelicals.
The survey didn’t evaluate why. Part of it, I think, has to do with a sense of kinship between Jews and Mormons. They are both significantly overachieving minority groups—both are way over-represented in Congress—and both have faced discrimination historically.
But the more significant factor is what I alluded to: The survey asked Jews how they feel about the Christian Right—not evangelicals. Mark is correct to characterize a lot of the Christian leaders that Jewish groups work with as being part of the Christian Right (e.g. John Hagee). But the Christian Right includes some evangelical members, but there are a lot of evangelicals that are in the Christian middle, and some that are left of it.
On top of that, the term “Christian Right” is loaded. And I suspect that if you were to ask Christians of my generation to evaluate their feelings about these three religious groups, the Christian Right wouldn’t fair much better.