By SETH MANDEL, 04.03.2012, Commentary Magazine
The Public Religion Research Institute, recently in the news for its survey on Catholic attitudes toward the Obama administration’s decision to include religious institutions in its contraception mandate, today released the findings of its polling on American Jewish values: “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” a report based on its recent survey of 1,004 self-identified American Jews. Here is one of the key findings highlighted by the report:
When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46 percent) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20 percent) or religious observance (17 percent). Fewer than 1-in-10 say that a sense of cultural heritage and tradition (6 percent) or a general set of values (3 percent) are most important to their Jewish identity.
This is a strong theme of secular liberalism running through the report, authored by PPRI’s Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, who recently contributed an essay on President Obama for an anthology of presidents and religious influence. The organization’s surveys often focus on testing the Obama administration’s most visible narratives on policy issues. (The previous three surveys were on whether religious liberty is under attack, Americans’ opinion on economic inequality, and whether Catholics support the contraception mandate.)
“Chosen for What?” tests many of these themes among the Jewish population, with similar findings. Tikkun olam, for example, is held to be either somewhat important or very important to 72 percent of respondents. On religion, however, a full 41 percent say it is not too important or not at all important. About 18 percent of respondents said they do not believe in God.