November 12, 2013 Israel has a reliable friend among the leaders of America’s conservative Protestant churches.
A national survey among theologically-conservative pastors of U.S. Protestant churches found that huge majorities of those pastors sympathize with Israel in its dispute with Palestine, stress the importance of the U.S. supporting Israel, and believe that America has a special spiritual obligation to support Israel.
The survey by the American Culture and Faith Institute discovered that more than four out of every five conservative Protestant pastors (81%) sympathize more with Israel than with their Palestinian adversaries; just 1% sympathizes more with the Palestinians; and 18% have remained neutral. In comparison, a parallel national survey of adults conducted by Pew Research reported that about half of all American adults (49%) side more with Israel, 12% side mostly with the Palestinians, and the remaining 39% do not sympathize with one side over the other. The Pew data also showed that among white evangelical Protestants, 72% side with Israel and just 4% with the Palestinians – closer to the statistics among conservative Protestant pastors, though not by quite as large a margin.
Similarly, the Institute’s study revealed that more than four out of five conservative pastors (86%) believe that it is very important for the United States government to have a strong relationship with the Israeli government, with most of the rest (11%) arguing that such a relationship is somewhat important. A mere 2% of the pastors interviewed said such a bond was not important.
The American Culture and Faith Institute also found that seven out of every ten conservative Protestant pastors (71%) believe that the United States has a special spiritual obligation to support Israel, with the other three out of ten (29%) contending that America does not have a special spiritual duty to be a strong and reliable ally of Israel.
According to Bill Dallas, a spokesman for the Institute, the support displayed for Israel by conservative pastors is a continuation of the support Christians have shown toward Israel for decades. “The Christian faith has its roots in Judaism and conservative Christians take that heritage seriously. It is more than simply acknowledging that Jesus was a Jew. Conservative pastors believe that the Bible teaches that Jews have always been among God’s chosen people and therefore have a special connection with Christians. The survey clearly shows that while most Americans lean more toward support of Israel than Palestine, that support is relatively lukewarm. In conservative Christian circles, though, Israel is a special place and the Jewish people play an indispensable role in our understanding the birth of Christianity and the heart of God. Christians’ support of Israel is virtually unquestioned.”
The survey data comparison between the adult public and theologically-conservative Protestant pastors is based on national surveys conducted in a similar timeframe. Those studies included the following research projects:
- The research among theologically-conservative Protestant pastors was conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute through two surveys. The first was conducted by telephone during March and April 2013 among a nationally representative sample of 370 theologically-conservative pastors. The second was conducted online in October 2013 among a nationally representative sample of 412 theologically-conservative pastors. The estimated maximum amount of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of 782 pastors is +3.5 percentage points. The question regarding the importance of the U.S. government’s relationship with Israel was asked only in the telephone survey.
- The Pew survey among the general public was conducted by the Pew Research Center in March 2013 among a nationally representative sample of 1,501 adults. The estimated maximum amount of sampling error associated with that sample is +2.6 percentage points.
- The same questions were asked of respondents in both surveys to provide an accurate comparison of opinions.