The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Education—Not Age—Explains American Jews’ Shifting Attitudes towards Israel

When it comes to Americans` attitudes towards Israel, a common narrative has emerged: Young Jews feel less attached to, and less supportive of, Israel. However, what people see as a story about age may instead be a story about education levels. This paper examines whether educational attainment is a stronger predictor of Jews’ attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other attitudes related to perceived discrimination (including anti-Semitism), than is age. I use data from the 2020 and 2013 Pew studies of American Jews. I offer three key findings. First, on measures that are related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, age is not the key dimension of polarization: education is. Highly educated Jews are much more likely to think that Israel and a Palestinian state can co-exist, that the Israeli government is not making a sincere effort to bring about a peace settlement with the Palestinians, and that the US government is too supportive of Israel. Second, highly educated Jews’ views about the conflict are part of a broader phenomenon where highly educated Jews are expressing concern for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities other than themselves. Specifically, Jews with graduate degrees are about 12% more likely than Jews without a BA to say that Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are discriminated against. Jews with graduate degrees are also 27% more likely than Jews without BAs to say that they have a lot in common with Muslims. Third, educated Jews do not have the same level of concern for themselves: Jews with graduate degrees are 19% less likely than Jews without a BA to say that Jews are discriminated against, and 18% less likely to say that there is a lot of anti-Semitism (in 2020). These findings suggest a trend among highly educated Jews to look outward and express concern for those who appear to be harmed. This is explained largely by the political views of highly educated Jews, who tend to be politically liberal and concerned about oppression.