2015-11-11 / Home

Pew survey: 57% of U.S. Jews eat pork & Torah study more popular

By URIEL HEILMAN
JTA

NEW YORK—

Do you experience feelings of peace and well-being at least once a week? Did God write the Torah? Do you eat bacon?

If these questions seem a little personal, don’t fret. They’re all part of a new Pew Research Center survey on American religion that shows moderate declines in religious beliefs and behavior among Americans generally, but growth among Jews in some key religious categories.

Some 847 of the 35,000 Americans in the Pew telephone survey between June and September 2014 identified themselves as Jews by religion— far fewer than the 3,475 Jews interviewed for Pew’s landmark 2013 survey (Unlike the new survey, the 2013 study also counted as Jews those of “no religion” who identified themselves as Jewish by ethnicity, parentage or feeling). But there’s still plenty of interesting data on Jewish beliefs, practice and voting patterns in the new survey.

Here are some of the study’s more interesting findings:

 Growing prayer and Torah study: Compared with the last time Pew surveyed Americans about religion, in 2007, the percentage of Jews who said religion is very important to them grew from 31 percent to 35 percent. Similarly, the percentage who said they attend religious services weekly or more often grew from 16 percent to 19 percent; the proportion of Jews who said they read “scripture” at least weekly grew from 14 percent to 17 percent, and the percentage of those who said they participate in prayer groups or religious study groups at least weekly grew from 11 percent to 16 percent.

 Did God write the Bible? Eleven percent of Jews believe the Torah is the literal word of God. That’s about the same proportion as Orthodox Jews within the U.S. Jewish population overall. An additional 26 percent of Jews believe the Torah is the nonliteral word of God and 55 percent believe the Torah was written by men. Compared to other religious groups in America, Jews have the lowest proportion of adherents who believe God wrote the Bible (except for Buddhists, who don’t believe in the Bible). Jews also read the Bible less than other religious Americans. Among Jews, 17 percent of respondents said they read the Bible outside of services at least weekly, compared to 35 percent for all Americans, 52 percent of Protestants and 25 percent of Catholics. Meanwhile, belief in God fell slightly among Jews, from 72 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2014 (37 percent said they were absolutely certain God exists, and 27 percent said they were fairly certain).

 Jewish women pray more than Jewish men. Most Jewish survey respondents—53 percent— said they belong to a local house of worship (the survey did not break down results by religious denomination). Though 19 percent of Jews surveyed said they attend services at least once a week, 29 percent said they pray at least once a day (up from 26 percent in 2007), 24 percent said they pray weekly or monthly, and 45 percent said they seldom or never pray. While there is a significant divide between the sexes among Americans generally when it comes to daily prayer— 64 percent of American women vs. 46 percent of American men pray daily—among Jews the gender difference is slight: 31 percent of Jewish women compared to 27 percent of Jewish men pray daily.

 Most American Jews eat pork? When it comes to observing religious dietary restrictions, Jews are less fastidious than Muslims or Hindus. While 90 percent of Muslims surveyed said they abjure pork and 67 percent of Hindus said they avoid beef, only 40 percent of Jews abstain from eating pork.

 Jewish Republicans gain, but so do Jewish liberals. Although the increase in Republican Jews is within the survey’s margin of error for Jews, the percentage of Jews who identified as Republican or leaning Republican grew by 2 points between 2007 and 2014, from 24 percent to 26 percent. Concomitantly, the proportion of Jews who identified as Democrats or leaning Democratic fell from 66 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2014. However, while the percentage of Jews who identify as politically conservative stayed constant during that time, the percentage of Jews who identify as liberal grew from 38 percent to 43 percent—mostly defectors from the “moderate” camp. .

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