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Jewish-Americans strongly prefer Mormons over evangelicals

The Salt Lake LDS Temple at Temple Square in Salt Lake City  Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
The Salt Lake LDS Temple at Temple Square in Salt Lake City Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

New survey information shows that the feelings of Jewish-Americans toward Mormons are more than twice as favorable as what Jews feel for evangelical Christians.

Released earlier this month, the 2012 Jewish Values Survey was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. Among several questions, Jewish respondents were asked to rate their feelings toward other religious groups on a 100-point scale — with 1 being least favorable and 100 most favorable.

The survey reported, "American Jews, on average, rated (Mormons) at 47. … By contrast, when asked to rate the Christian right, American Jews report an average of 20.9, a score indicating that American Jews hold considerably more unfavorable feelings toward members of the Christian right, significantly more so than toward Mormons."

The Jewish Daily Forward, a Jewish-American periodical published in New York, offered an explanation for those favorability ratings Monday that is grounded in politics.

"Social views of Christian conservatives have been drawing attention in recent months as an increasingly significant part of the Republican presidential primary discourse," Nathan Guttman wrote for the Forward. "Attempts by GOP candidates to prove their conservative credentials in order to win over the Christian right have had, experts believe, an adverse effect on the Jewish community, turning it away from the Republican Party."

However, in a Daily Beast column penned on April 6, Jewish-American conservative radio host Michael Medved employed a different tack for explaining the disparity in Jewish favorability toward Mormons and evangelicals. Instead of focusing on why Jews distrust evangelicals, Medved built the bulk of his op-ed piece on the assertion that "Jews maintain a distinctly — and surprisingly — favorable view of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Medved buttressed his position by citing a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that Harvard professor Robert Putnam and Notre Dame professor David Campbell co-authored in October.

"We suspect that Jews' warmth toward Mormons stems from solidarity with another group that is small and subject to intolerance," Putnam and Campbell wrote. "Jews and Mormons are the two American groups most likely to report that other people disparage their religious beliefs. Roughly 15 percent of both Jews and Mormons say that they hear derogatory comments 'often.'

"The warmth of Jews toward Mormons reminds us that, even at a time when religion and politics are increasingly intertwined, religious comity can transcend partisan differences."

The Jewish and Mormon faiths are similar in size. Both number between 6 and 7 million in the United States and 13-15 million worldwide.