Jewish Americans hold more favorable views of Mormons and Muslims than those belonging to the "Christian Right," according to a recently published survey on Jewish values.
The findings were part of the "2012 Jewish Values Survey," which was published on April 3 by the non-Jewish Public Religion Research Institute. For the study, researchers asked 1,000 Jewish Americans to rate how favorably they view Mormons, Muslims, and members of the so-called "Christian Right" on a scale of 1 to 100.
Of the three groups, Mormons received the highest favorability rating of 47%, followed by the Muslims at 41.4%. The Christian Right, on the hand, received a much lower favorability rating of 20.9%.
According to the Jewish Daily Forward, Jewish Americans' negative view of conservative Christians in comparison to other religious groups may stem in part from political alignments.
"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 in the Daily 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."
But Mormons like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have had prominent roles in the Republican Party as well, so there must be another reason why Jewish Americans have shown a 2-to-1 preference for Mormons over Evangelicals, Mark Paredes wrote in the Jewish Journal.
Wall Street Journal writers David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam touched on that question last year in an article on Mitt Romney's challenges running for president.
Campbell and Putnam said that, when they asked a nationally representative group of people how they felt about different religious groups, the respondents rated Mormons above atheists and Muslims but significantly lower than Evangelicals, Catholics and Jews.
But Jews look on Mormons in a much more favorable light, as recent surveys indicate, and that may be because they know what it's like to face intolerance from others.
According to Campbell and Putnam:
We suspect that Jews' warmth toward Mormons stems from solidarity with another group that is small and subject to intolerance. Jews and Mormons are the two American groups most likely to report that other people disparage their religious beliefs.
The 2012 Jewish Values Survey has worried those working towards improving relations between Jews and Christians.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, told the Daily Forward that he finds the survey results concerning favorability "shocking and concerning," especially in light of the fact many Evangelical Christians have been vocal in their support for Israel.
In the Jewish Journal, Mark Paredes offered a number of reasons Jews may have rated Mormons twice as favorable as Evangelicals, saying "In my opinion, it is Evangelicals' actions, rather than their beliefs, which have alienated many Jews and Mormons."
But Paredes that, in the end, it's important to keep the survey results in perspective.
"Of course, the survey also shows that Mormons have their work cut out for them when it comes to strengthening relationships with Jews. After all, 47 points out of 100 isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement," Paredes wrote. "That said, Mormons do have a big advantage over Evangelicals when it comes to Jews: Given our belief that we are covenant Israelites, our respect for Judaism is as strong as our support for Israel. When Evangelicals can say the same, they will have more success with Jewish outreach."
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein was misidentified with a feminine pronoun. Eckstein is a he and not a she.