With all the recent talk about anti-Semitism, who would have thought that Jews would prove so popular?
A new Gallup Poll (released September 7, 2006) asked respondents how they felt about ten different religious groups, ranging from “Fundamentalist Christians” to “Atheists.” By every measure, Jews drew the most favorable reaction, with the highest “positive” rating (58%) and the lowest “negative” rating (only 4%). By contrast, Americans expressed decidedly mixed feelings about Mormons (with a net negative rating, 29% to 28%) and Muslims (30% to 26%). The least popular religious groups in the survey proved to be Atheists (an overwhelmingly negative 44% to 15% rating) and, most especially, Scientologists (a stunning 53% negative, to just 11% positive – thank you, Tom Cruise!).
It’s perhaps not surprising to see Jews rated higher than much-publicized, controversial groups like Scientologists, Atheists or Muslims, but the Gallup Poll (of 1,001 adults) also found Jews scoring higher than Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, “Evangelical Christians” or “Fundamentalist Christians.” In other words, more Americans declared favorable reaction to the tiny Jewish community (just 2% of the national population) than to vastly more substantial groups in the society, and fewer expressed negativity at any level of intensity. Only 1% of respondents expressed “very negative” views of Jews, while 11% declared a “very negative” attitude toward “Fundamentalist Christians.”
These figures should serve to reassure the perpetually worried, defensive leaders of the Jewish community and they certainly underscore America’s status as by far the least anti-Semitic society on earth. Nevertheless, three factors help to explain the startlingly positive ratings of Jews in the survey and they provide important perspective on the positive numbers.