Jewish Americans in 2020 | Pew Research Center

Posted By on August 22, 2022

(Photo illustration/Pew Research Center)

For this report, we surveyed 4,718 U.S. adults who identify as Jewish, including 3,836 Jews by religion and 882 Jews of no religion. The survey was administered online and by mail by Westat, from Nov. 19, 2019, to June 3, 2020. Respondents were drawn from a national, stratified random sampling of residential mailing addresses, which included addresses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. No lists of common Jewish names, membership rolls of Jewish organizations or other indicators of Jewishness were used to draw the initial sample.

We first sent letters to the sampled addresses asking an adult (18 or older) living in the household to take a short screening survey (the screener) either online or on a printed paper form, which they mailed back to us. The screener collected demographic characteristics and determined eligibility. In households with more than one adult resident, we selected the respondent randomly by some simple method, such as asking the person who most recently celebrated a birthday to fill out the screener.

A total of 68,398 people across the country completed the screener. Respondents who indicated in the screener that they are Jewish were asked to take a longer survey. Three criteria were used to determine eligibility for the extended survey: (1) if the responding adult said their current religion is Jewish; (2) if the responding adult did not identify their religion as Jewish but said that, aside from religion, they consider themselves to be Jewish in any way, such as ethnically, culturally or because of their family background; (3) if the responding adult did not identify with the first two criteria but said they were raised in the Jewish tradition or had a Jewish parent. All adults who reported any of these criteria were given the extended survey to complete.

However, this report focuses on the answers given in the extended survey by those who said their present religion is Jewish (Jews by religion), plus those who said they presently have no religion (they identify religiously as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular) but who consider themselves Jewish aside from religion and have at least one Jewish parent or were raised Jewish (Jews of no religion). Together, these two groups comprise the net Jewish population, also referred to as U.S. Jews or Jewish Americans throughout the report.

In addition to the 4,718 respondents who were categorized as Jewish in these two ways, we also interviewed an additional 1,163 respondents who were determined to be eligible for the survey, but who ultimately were notcategorized as Jewish for the purposes of this report. Some of these respondents indicated they have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish but said they currently have a different religion (many are Christian) or do not consider themselves Jewish today in any way, either by religion or aside from religion. Others indicated that they do not have a Jewish parent, were not raised Jewish and do not identify with the Jewish religion, yet they do consider themselves Jewish in some way, such as because they are married to a Jewish person or are Christian and link Jesus with Judaism.

Both the full sample of all initial respondents (including those who were screened out as ineligible for the extended survey) and the sample of respondents to the extended survey were weighted to align with demographic benchmarks for the U.S. adult population from the Census Bureau as well as a set of modeled estimates for the religious and demographic composition of eligible adults within the larger U.S. adult population.

For more information, see the Methodology. The Methodology also contains detailed information on margins of sampling error and other potential sources of bias. Statistical significance is measured in this report at a 95% confidence level using standard tests and taking into account the effects of a complex sampling design. The questions used in this analysis can be found here.

What does it mean to be Jewish in America? A new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Jewish Americans participate, at least occasionally, both in some traditional religious practices like going to a synagogue or fasting on Yom Kippur and in some Jewish cultural activities, like making potato latkes, watching Israeli movies or reading Jewish news online. Among young Jewish adults, however, two sharply divergent expressions of Jewishness appear to be gaining ground one involving religion deeply enmeshed in every aspect of life, and the other involving little or no religion at all.

Overall, about a quarter of U.S. Jewish adults (27%) do not identify with the Jewish religion: They consider themselves to be Jewish ethnically, culturally or by family background and have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, but they answer a question about their current religion by describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular rather than as Jewish. Among Jewish adults under 30, four-in-ten describe themselves this way.

At the same time, younger Jewish adults are much more likely than older Jews to identify as Orthodox. Among Jews ages 18 to 29, 17% self-identify as Orthodox, compared with just 3% of Jews 65 and older. And fully one-in-ten U.S. Jewish adults under the age of 30 are Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox (11%), compared with 1% of Jews 65 and older.

Meanwhile, the two branches of Judaism that long predominated in the U.S. have less of a hold on young Jews than on their elders. Roughly four-in-ten Jewish adults under 30 identify with either Reform (29%) or Conservative Judaism (8%), compared with seven-in-ten Jews ages 65 and older.

In other words, the youngest U.S. Jews count among their ranks both a relatively large share of traditionally observant, Orthodox Jews and an even larger group of people who see themselves as Jewish for cultural, ethnic or family reasons but do not identify with Judaism as a religion at all. Many people in both groups participate, at least sometimes, in the same cultural activities, such as cooking traditional Jewish foods, visiting Jewish historical sites and listening to Jewish or Israeli music. Yet the survey finds that most people in the latter group (Jews of no religion) feel they have not much or nothing at all in common with the former group (Orthodox Jews).

There were some signs of this divergence in Pew Research Centers previous survey of Jewish Americans, conducted in 2013. But it is especially evident in the 2020 survey, conducted during a polarizing election campaign.

Politically, U.S. Jews on the whole tilt strongly liberal and tend to support the Democratic Party. When the new survey was fielded, from late fall 2019 through late spring 2020, 71% said they were Democrats or leaned Democratic. Among Jews of no religion, roughly three-quarters were Democrats or leaned that way. But Orthodox Jews have been trending in the opposite direction, becoming as solidly Republican as non-Orthodox Jews are solidly Democratic. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, 75% of Orthodox Jews said they were Republicans or leaned Republican, compared with 57% in 2013. And 86% of Orthodox Jews rated then-President Donald Trumps handling of policy toward Israel as excellent or good, while a majority of all U.S. Jews described it as only fair or poor.

While these generational shifts toward both Orthodoxy and secular Jewishness have the potential, in time, to reshape American Jewry, the new survey paints a portrait of Jewish Americans in 2020 that is not dramatically different from 2013. Counting all Jewish adults young and old, combined the percentages who identify as Orthodox, Conservative and Reform are little changed. The size of the adult Jewish population is also remarkably stable in percentage terms, while rising in absolute numbers, roughly in line with the total U.S. population.

Pew Research Center estimates that as of 2020, 2.4% of U.S. adults are Jewish, including 1.7% who identify with the Jewish religion and 0.6% who are Jews of no religion. By comparison, the 2013 estimate for net Jews was 2.2%, including 1.8% who were Jews by religion and 0.5% who were Jews of no religion. (These figures are rounded to one decimal. Given the expected range of precision for two surveys of this size and complexity, it is safer to say that the adult Jewish population has roughly kept pace with change in the U.S. population than to focus on small differences in the 2013 and 2020 incidence rates.)

In absolute numbers, the 2020 Jewish population estimate is approximately 7.5 million, including 5.8 million adults and 1.8 million children (rounded to the closest 100,000). The 2013 estimate was 6.7 million, including 5.3 million adults and 1.3 million children. The precision of these population estimates should not be exaggerated; they are derived from a sample of the U.S. public that is very large compared with most surveys (more than 68,000 interviews) but are still subject to sampling error and other practical difficulties that produce uncertainty. Furthermore, the size of the Jewish population greatly depends on ones definition of who counts as Jewish. For more details on the 2020 population estimates, including alternative definitions of Jewishness, see Chapter 1.

The new survey continues to find that Jewish Americans, on average, are older, have higher levels of education, earn higher incomes, and are more geographically concentrated in the Northeast than Americans overall. There is also evidence that the U.S. Jewish population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Overall, 92% of Jewish adults identify as White (non-Hispanic), and 8% identify with all other categories combined. But among Jews ages 18 to 29, that figure rises to 15%. Already, 17% of U.S. Jews surveyed live in households in which at least one child or adult is Black, Hispanic, Asian, some other (non-White) race or ethnicity, or multiracial.

Although in many ways the U.S. Jewish population is flourishing, concerns about anti-Semitism have risen among American Jews. Three-quarters say there is more anti-Semitism in the United States than there was five years ago, and just over half (53%) say that as a Jewish person in the United States they feel less safe than they did five years ago. Jews who wear distinctively religious attire, such as a kippa or head covering, are particularly likely to say they feel less safe. But the impact on behavior seems to be limited: Even among those who feel less safe, just one-in-ten or 5% of all U.S. Jews report that they have stayed away from a Jewish event or observance as a result.

These are among the key findings of Pew Research Centers new survey of U.S. Jews, conducted from Nov. 19, 2019, to June 3, 2020, among 4,718 Jews across the country who were identified through 68,398 completed screening interviews conducted by mail and online.

Comparisons between the new survey and the 2013 survey of Jewish Americans are complicated by a host of methodological differences. At the time the 2013 study was conducted, it used the best available methods for selecting a random, representative sample of Jews across the United States: dialing randomly generated telephone numbers and having live interviewers (real people, not recorded voices) ask a series of screening questions to identify respondents who consider themselves Jewish. By 2020, however, response rates to telephone surveys had declined so precipitously that random-digit dialing by telephone was no longer the best way to conduct a large, nationwide survey of a small subgroup of the U.S. public.

Instead, we sent letters to randomly selected residential addresses across the country, asking the recipients to go online to take a short screening survey. We also provided the option to fill out the survey on a paper form and return it by mail, so as not to limit the survey only to people who have access to the internet and are comfortable using it. These methods obtained a response rate (17%) similar to the 2013 surveys (16%) and much higher than what telephone surveys now typically obtain (approximately 5%).

But, because of the differences between the ways the two surveys were conducted, this report is cautious about making direct comparisons of results on individual questions. For more information on how the new survey was conducted, see the Methodology. For guidance on whether 2020 survey questions can be compared with similar questions in the 2013 survey, see Appendix B.

Because the 2020 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Jews was conducted by mail and online, the results on many questions are not directly comparable with the Centers 2013 survey, which was conducted by telephone.

Years of research on survey methods shows that people tend to answer some questions differently when they are responding to a live interviewer on a telephone than when they are providing written answers in privacy, either online or on paper. Social scientists believe the differences are caused by a variety of factors, often including an unconscious tendency to give socially desirable answers when talking to another person.

However, not all survey questions are subject to this social desirability bias. To examine the impact of the methodological differences between the 2013 and 2020 surveys, Pew Research Center conducted an experiment with a separate group of 2,290 Jewish respondents, randomly assigning some to be interviewed by phone and others to answer the same questions online.

This experiment was not part of the actual survey; none of the experiments participants are counted as respondents in the main survey. But we have used the findings to help assess whether differences between the 2013 and 2020 results on particular questions represent real changes in the views of Jewish Americans over that seven-year period or, on the contrary, may just reflect the different modes (live interviewer vs. self-administered) in which the two surveys were conducted.

The mode experiment indicates that several questions about Jewish religious observance are subject to substantial social desirability bias in telephone polls. For example, the share of respondents who say they attend synagogue services at least monthly was 11 percentage points higher among those speaking with a live interviewer by telephone than among those responding on the web or by mail, in line with a pattern among Americans as a whole. The experiment also found differences in the way respondents answered questions about the importance of being Jewish and of religion in their lives. In addition, social desirability bias seems to affect the way U.S. Jews answer some questions about Israel, including how emotionally attached they feel toward the Jewish state.

Moreover, these mode effects are not the only potentially important difference between the two studies. They also used different strategies to sample Jews. Its possible that the 2020 web/mail survey may not have been as effective as the 2013 phone survey at reaching segments of the Jewish population who are uncomfortable with going online or lack access to the Internet, while the new survey might have been more effective at reaching tech-savvy groups like young people. Even though all eligible respondents had an opportunity to complete the 2020 survey questionnaire on paper and return it in a postage-paid envelope, this might not have overcome the initial reluctance of some people such as older Orthodox adults to participate online. Whether this is actually the case or not is very difficult to determine, but it should be acknowledged as a possibility.

Bearing all these methodological differences in mind, Pew Research Center generally advises against comparing specific numbers or percentage-point estimates from the 2013 and 2020 surveys and assuming that any differences represent real change over a seven-year period.

A few exceptions are noted, where relevant, in this report. For example, there appears to be little or no difference in the way Jewish Americans describe their institutional branch or stream of Judaism (e.g., Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc.) when speaking on the telephone versus answering online or by mail.

For more information on the mode experiment, see Appendix B.

The 2020 survey finds that slightly over half of all U.S. Jews (54%) belong to the two long-dominant branches of American Judaism: 37% identify as Reform and 17% as Conservative. Those figures are essentially unchanged from 2013, when a total of 54% identified with either the Reform movement (35%) or Conservative Judaism (18%).

The share of all Jewish adults who describe themselves as Orthodox is also about the same in 2020 (9%) as it was in 2013 (10%). Other branches, such as the Reconstructionist movement and Humanistic Judaism, total about 4%, very similar to in 2013 (6%). And the share of Jewish adults who do not identify with any particular stream or institutional branch of Judaism is now 32%, roughly on par with the 2013 survey (30%).

In broad strokes, the characteristics of these groups also are similar in 2020 to what they were in 2013. On average, the Orthodox are the most traditionally observant and emotionally attached to Israel; they tend to be politically conservative, with large families, very low rates of religious intermarriage and a young median age (35 years).

Conservative and Reform Jews tend to be less religiously observant in traditional ways, like keeping kosher and regularly attending religious services, but many in these groups participate in Jewish cultural activities, and most are at least somewhat attached to Israel. Demographically, they have high levels of education, small families, higher rates of intermarriage than the Orthodox and an older age profile (median age of 62 for Conservative, 53 for Reform).

There is a fair amount of overlap though it is far from complete between the 32% of Jewish adults who do not consider themselves members of any branch or denomination of American Judaism and the 27% who are categorized as Jews of no religion. Survey respondents who say their religion is Jewish are categorized as Jews by religion no matter what their branch identity or levels of observance. Those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular but who have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish and say that aside from religion they consider themselves Jewish in some way such as ethnically, culturally or because of their family background are also fully included in the Jewish population throughout this report. Survey researchers call them Jews of no religion because they do not identify with Judaism or any other religion.

As in 2013, Jews of no religion stand out in 2020 for low levels of religious participation particularly synagogue membership and attendance together with comparatively weak attachments to Israel, feelings of belonging to the Jewish people and engagement in communal Jewish life. They tend to be politically liberal and highly educated, with relatively high rates of intermarriage and a low median age (38 years).

One way to illustrate the divergence between Jews at opposite ends of the religious spectrum is to widen the lens and look at religion in the United States more broadly. Orthodox Jews are among the most highly religious groups in U.S. society in terms of the share who say religion is very important in their lives (86%) along with Black Protestants (78%) and White evangelicals (76%). Jews of no religion are among the countrys least religious subgroups even more inclined than unaffiliated U.S. adults (sometimes called nones) to say that religion is not too important or not at all important to them (91% vs. 82%).

This 2020 Pew Research Center survey takes the same basic approach to defining Jewishness among U.S. adults and uses the same categories that the Centers 2013 survey did.

As the earlier report explained, Who is a Jew? is an ancient question with no single, timeless answer. It is clear from questions in the survey itself that some Jews view Jewishness mainly as a matter of religion, while others see it as a matter of culture, ancestry or some combination of all three traits. Consequently, we sought to cast a wide net, using a screening questionnaire (the screener) to determine if respondents consider themselves Jewish in any of those ways.

In 2013, one of the screening questions asked:

Aside from religion, do you consider yourself Jewish or partially Jewish?

On the recommendation of a panel of academic advisers, researchers modified that question in 2020 to say:

Aside from religion, do you consider yourself to be Jewish in any way (for example, ethnically, culturally or because of your familys background)?

Questions about the respondents spouse and other household members were modified similarly.

Respondents were deemed eligible to take the full, longer survey if they indicated any of the following: (a) their religion is Jewish; or (b) aside from religion, they consider themselves Jewish in any way; or (c) they had a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish.

For the purposes of analysis in this report, however, the definition of Jewishness is narrower. The main categories are:

Jews by religion people who say their religion is Jewish and who do not profess any other religion

Jews of no religion people who describe themselves (religiously) as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, but who have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, and who still consider themselves Jewish in any way (such as ethnically, culturally or because of their family background)

These two groups together comprise the total or net Jewish population also referred to as U.S. Jews or Jewish Americans throughout this report.

As in 2013, respondents who say they are Jewish and any other religion (such as Christian) are not included in the net Jewish category. Nor are respondents who indicate they have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish but who say they do not consider themselves Jewish today in any way.

For more information on the 2020 survey sample, see the box How we did this and the Methodology.

While there are some signs of religious divergence and political polarization among U.S. Jews, the survey also finds large areas of consensus. For instance, more than eight-in-ten U.S. Jews say that they feel at least some sense of belonging to the Jewish people, and three-quarters say that being Jewish is either very or somewhat important to them.

As in 2013, the 2020 survey asked Jewish Americans whether a list of causes and activities are essential, important but not essential or not important to what being Jewish means to them. Because of methodological differences in the way the survey was conducted and the addition of one item to the list, the results from 2020 on particular items may not be directly comparable to 2013, but the broad pattern of responses is similar in many ways.

Seven-in-ten or more U.S. Jews say that remembering the Holocaust (76%) and leading a moral and ethical life (72%) are essential to their Jewish identity. About half or more also say that working for justice and equality in society (59%), being intellectually curious (56%) and continuing family traditions (51%) are essential. Far fewer consider eating traditional Jewish foods (20%) and observing Jewish law (15%) to be essential elements of what being Jewish means to them, personally. However, the observance of halakha Jewish law is particularly important to Orthodox Jews, 83% of whom deem it essential.

Views on halakha are just one of many stark differences in beliefs and behaviors between Orthodox Jews and Jewish Americans who identify with other branches of Judaism (or with no particular branch) that are evident in the survey, and that may affect how these groups perceive each other. For example, about half of Orthodox Jews in the U.S. say they have not much (23%) or nothing at all (26%) in common with Jews in the Reform movement; just 9% feel they have a lot in common with Reform Jews.

Reform Jews generally reciprocate those feelings: Six-in-ten say they have not much (39%) or nothing at all (21%) in common with the Orthodox, while 30% of Reform Jews say they have some things in common, and 9% say they have a lot in common with Orthodox Jews.

In fact, both Conservative and Reform Jews are more likely to say they have a lot or some in common with Jews in Israel (77% and 61%, respectively) than to say they have commonalities with Orthodox Jews in the United States. And Orthodox Jews are far more likely to say they have a lot or some in common with Israeli Jews (91%) than to say the same about their Conservative and Reform counterparts in the U.S.

When it comes to religion, U.S. Jews are in many ways distinctive from the wider U.S. public and not just in their engagement with specifically Jewish beliefs and practices.

In general, Jews are far less religious than American adults as a whole, at least by conventional measures of religious observance in Pew Research Center surveys. For example, one-in-five Jews (21%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 41% of U.S. adults overall. And 12% of Jewish Americans say they attend religious services weekly or more often, versus 27% of the general public.

There are even bigger gaps when it comes to belief in God. A majority of all U.S. adults say they believe in God as described in the Bible (56%), compared with about a quarter of Jews (26%). Jewish Americans are more inclined to believe in some other kind of higher power or no higher power at all.

At the same time, however, the trends playing out among American Jews are similar to many patterns in the broader population. The most obvious of these is growing religious disaffiliation: The percentage of U.S. Jews who do not claim any religion (27%) i.e., who identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, religiously is virtually identical to the percentage of U.S. adults overall in these categories (28%).

In addition, intermarriage is not just a Jewish phenomenon. Religious intermarriage also appears to be on the rise in the U.S. adult population more broadly. The same is true for rising levels of racial and ethnic diversity, which is happening in most U.S. religious groups as the countrys population as a whole becomes more diverse. Finally, the fact that Orthodox Jews tend to have more children aligns with a general pattern in which highly religious Americans have higher fertility rates than non-religious ones.

Left unanswered by the 2013 study was why many Jewish Americans, particularly in younger cohorts, rarely attend synagogue, and in what ways, if any, they connect with Judaism or other Jews.

The 2020 survey includes some new questions designed to help explore those issues. To begin with, Jews who say they attend services at a synagogue, temple, minyan or havurah at least once a month 20% of Jewish adults were asked what draws them to religious services. Those who attend services a few times a year or less were asked what keeps them away; this group makes up nearly eight-in-ten U.S. Jews (79%).

Of nine possible reasons for attending Jewish services offered in the survey, the most commonly chosen is Because I find it spiritually meaningful. Nine-in-ten regular attenders say this is a reason they go to services (92%), followed closely by Because I feel a sense of belonging (87%) and To feel connected to my ancestry or history (83%). About two-thirds (65%) say they feel a religious obligation, and Orthodox Jews are especially likely to give this reason (87%). Fewer Jewish congregants say they go to religious services to please a spouse or family member (42%) or because they would feel guilty if they did not participate (22%).

Of 11 possible reasons for not attending religious services, the top choice is Im not religious. Two-thirds of infrequent attenders say this is a reason they do not go to services more often. Other common explanations are Im just not interested (57%) and I express my Jewishness in other ways (55%). Fewer say I dont know enough to participate (23%), I feel pressured to do more or give more (11%), I dont feel welcome (7%), I fear for my security (6%) or People treat me like I dont really belong (4%).

The degree to which finances are a barrier seems to vary by age. Although some Jewish leaders believe that synagogue membership fees are keeping away young people, younger Jewish adults (under age 30) are somewhat less likely than those who are older to say they dont attend religious services because it costs too much (10% vs. 19%). For perspective on this question from in-depth interviews with congregational rabbis, see the sidebar, Most U.S. Jews dont go to synagogue, so rabbis and a host of new organizations are trying to innovate in Chapter 3.

For more analysis of these questions, see Chapter 3.

In addition to traditional forms of religious observance, such as attending a synagogue, many Jewish Americans say they engage in cultural Jewish activities such as enjoying Jewish foods, visiting Jewish historical sites and reading Jewish literature.

Young Jewish adults report engaging in many of these activities at rates roughly equal to older U.S. Jews. Among Jews ages 18 to 29, for example, 70% say they often or sometimes cook or eat traditional Jewish foods, identical to the percentage of Jews 65 and older who do the same. And 37% of the youngest Jewish adults say they at least sometimes mark Shabbat in a way that makes it meaningful to them (though not necessarily in a way that follows Jewish law, such as abstaining from work), as do 35% of Jews who are 65 and older.

Overall, however, its not the case that Jewish cultural activities or individualized, do-it-yourself religious observances are directly substituting for synagogue attendance and other traditional forms of Jewish observance. More often, they are complementing traditional religious participation. Statistical analysis indicates that people who are highly observant by traditional measures on a scale combining synagogue attendance, keeping kosher, fasting on Yom Kippur and participating in a Passover Seder also tend to report the highest participation rates in the 12 cultural Jewish activities mentioned in the survey, such as reading Jewish publications, listening to Jewish music and going to Jewish film festivals.

Those who are low on the scale of traditional religious observance, meanwhile, tend to be much less active in the vibrant array of cultural activities available to U.S. Jews in the 21st century. In fact, no more than about one-in-ten low-observance Jews say they often do any of the dozen things mentioned in the survey.

For example, among highly observant Jews, 31% say they often listen to Jewish or Israeli music, compared with 7% of those with a medium level of traditional observance and just 2% of those who are low on the observance scale. There are similar patterns on other questions: 64% of highly observant Jews often cook or eat traditional Jewish foods, eight times the share of low-observance Jews who say the same (8%).

At the same time, the survey finds that many Jews who answered a different question by saying they dont go to religious services because they express [their] Jewishness in other ways do engage in cultural activities, at least on occasion. About three-quarters report that they sometimes or often enjoy Jewish foods (77%) and share Jewish culture or holidays with non-Jewish friends (74%), while many also visit historic Jewish sites when traveling (55%) and read Jewish literature (47%).

See Chapter 3 for more analysis of these questions.

In the wake of a series of murderous attacks on Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018; Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, in April 2019; and a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, in December 2019 the 2020 survey posed many more questions about anti-Semitism than the 2013 survey did.

More than nine-in-ten U.S. Jews say there is at least some anti-Semitism in the United States, including 45% who say there is a lot of anti-Semitism. Just 6% say there is not much anti-Semitism, and close to zero (fewer than 1%) say there is none at all.

Moreover, three-quarters (75%) say there is more anti-Semitism in the United States than there was five years ago. Just 5% say there is less, and 19% perceive little or no change, saying there is about the same amount of anti-Semitism as there was five years ago.

Among those who perceive an increase in anti-Semitism over the last five years, relatively few (5% of all U.S. Jews) think it has occurred solely because there are now more people who hold anti-Semitic views. The vast majority say that anti-Semitism has increased in the United States either because people who hold anti-Semitic views now feel more free to express them (35%) or that both things have happened: The number of anti-Semites has grown andpeople now feel more free to express anti-Semitic views (33%).

The survey also sought to assess, in broad terms, the psychological impact of anti-Semitism on Jewish Americans and its possible chilling effect on Jewish community activities.

Slightly more than half of Jews surveyed (53%) say that, as a Jewish person in the United States, they personally feel less safe today than they did five years ago. Just 3% feel more safe, while 42% dont sense much change. (An additional 1% say they did not live in the U.S. five years ago.) Jews who usually wear something in public that is recognizably Jewish (such as a kippa or head covering) are especially likely to feel less safe, as are Jewish women.

Those who say they feel less safe now were asked a follow-up question: Have you hesitated to participate in Jewish observances or events because you feel less safe than you did five years ago?

Two-thirds of those who feel less safe (or 35% of all Jewish adults) say they have not hesitated to participate in Jewish activities because of safety concerns. About one-quarter of those who feel less safe (12% of all U.S. Jewish adults) say they have hesitated but still participated in Jewish observances or events. And about one-in-ten Jews who say they feel less safe (5% of all U.S. Jewish adults) say they hesitated and chose not to participate in Jewish observances or events because of safety concerns.

Jewish Americans report that they experience some forms of anti-Semitism much more often than other forms. For example, 37% say they have seen anti-Jewish graffiti or vandalism in their local community in the past 12 months, while 19% say they have been made to feel unwelcome because they are Jewish and 15% say they have been called offensive names. Fewer say that in the 12 months prior to taking the survey they have been harassed online (8%) or physically attacked (5%) because they are Jewish.

While reports of physical attacks are rare across the board, many of the other experiences of anti-Semitism are more common among younger Jews and Orthodox Jews (who often wear recognizably Jewish attire in public). For example, one-quarter of Jewish adults under the age of 30 say that in the past year they have been called offensive names because they are Jewish, compared with 10% of Jews ages 50 and older. And 55% of Orthodox Jews say they have seen anti-Jewish graffiti in their local community in the past year, compared with 37% of Reform Jews; this may be, at least in part, because Orthodox Jews are more likely to live in heavily Jewish neighborhoods.

Most Jewish Americans also have been exposed in the past year to anti-Semitic tropes or stereotypes though most report these as secondhand experiences, such as something they have seen on social media or read about in news stories. For example, about three-quarters of Jewish adults have heard someone claim that Jews care too much about money, including three-in-ten (30%) who say this was said in their presence in the past year and an additional 43% who say they have heard or read about this claim secondhand.

Similarly, 71% of U.S. Jews say they have heard or read about someone claiming in the past year that the Holocaust did not happen or its severity has been exaggerated. But most of these experiences have been secondhand (63%) rather than something said in their presence (9%). A smaller share of U.S. Jews have heard someone say that American Jews care more about Israel than about the United States, including 36% who have heard or read about this secondhand and 6% who have heard it directly in the last year.

Despite these experiences with anti-Semitism, Jewish Americans tend to say that there is as much or more discrimination in U.S. society against several other groups (including Muslim, Black, Hispanic, and gay or lesbian Americans) as there is against Jews. This was true in the 2013 survey and remains the case in 2020.

For more analysis of questions on discrimination and anti-Semitism, see Chapter 6.

Surveyed roughly five to 12 months before the 2020 presidential election, U.S. Jews expressed generally negative views of then-President Donald Trump: 73% of all Jewish adults (and 96% of Jews who are Democrats or lean Democratic) disapproved of his performance in office, while 27% gave him positive approval ratings (including 88% of Jews who are Republicans or lean Republican).

Jews were especially scornful of Trumps handling of environmental and immigration issues: Eight-in-ten Jewish adults said he had done a poor or only fair job on the environment, and three-quarters said the same about his handling of immigration.

Most U.S. Jews perceived Trump as friendly toward Israel. About six-in-ten overall (63%) said this, including 55% of Jews who are Democrats or lean Democratic as well as 85% of those who are Republicans or lean Republican.

But there was less consensus among Jewish Americans over whether Trump was friendly toward Jews in the United States. About three-in-ten said he was friendly (31%), while 28% said he was neutral and 37% said he was unfriendlytoward U.S. Jews. These perceptions, however, were highly partisan: While a large majority of Jewish Republicans (81%) said Trump was friendly toward Jews in the United States, just 13% of Jewish Democrats agreed.

Even though most U.S. Jews perceived Trump as friendly toward Israel, that does not necessarily mean they looked positively on his policies toward the Jewish state. Indeed, most Jewish Americans rated Trumps handling of U.S. policy toward Israel as only fair (23%) or poor (35%), while four-in-ten rated his handling of this policy as good (17%) or excellent (23%). Orthodox Jews were particularly inclined to give Trump high marks for his policies toward Israel (69% excellent).

In the 2013 survey, which took place during the administration of President Barack Obama, one-in-ten Jewish Americans said U.S. policy was too supportive of Israel. Most said U.S. policy was either not supportive enough of Israel (31%) or about right (54%).

Seven years later, during the final 14 months of the Trump administration, just over half of Jewish adults (54%) still said the level of U.S. support for Israel was about right. But, by comparison with 2013, fewer said the U.S. was not supportive enough (19%), and more said U.S. policy was too supportive of Israel (22%).

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Jewish Americans in 2020 | Pew Research Center

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