Hark!—there’s some good news in the land: According to a Pew Research Center poll released on Wednesday, which asked more than 4,000 American respondents to rate religious groups on a “feeling thermometer,” Jews elicit the “warmest” feelings of any religious group.
In a certain sense, the Pew survey means absolutely nothing. Warm feelings from fellow Americans are nice, but in another, more important survey—by a little group called the FBI—we remain more victimized in religious hate crimes than any other group. On the other hand, the Pew report makes for really fun reading, in an immature, preening, score-keeping way.
For example, it’s kind of interesting to see that, with 67 percent of Americans feeling warmly toward us, we barely edge out Catholics (66 percent) and mainline Protestants (65 percent). We totally crush Mormons (54 percent), which doesn’t seem fair, since they are better-looking than we are, better at business, divorce less, and know the Old Testament as well as we do. Atheists give the warm fuzzies to only 50 percent of respondents, which makes one wonder how respondents would feel about the huge number of Jews who are also atheists—when confronted by such a monstrous chimera as an atheist Jew, would the typical respondent love him for being Jewish or loathe him for being an atheist?
Love for us Jews decreases with age. Oldsters, in the 65+ age group, really dig us, with 74 percent feeling the warmth, a number that declines among 50 to 64-year-olds (69 percent warming up to us Jews), then again among 30 t 49-year-olds (Jews still are tops, but with only 64 percent), and then bottoming out among those damned millennials (18-29), with only 62 percent of whom feel warmly toward us—putting us behind Hindus and Catholics (tied at 64 percent) and their favorite group, Buddhists, totally overheating them at a hot 66 percent. (The survey did not ask how many of the respondents actually knew anything about Buddhism, or could tell it apart from “like, you know, yoga.”)
The most enmity between groups? Evangelicals and atheists, unsurprisingly. “There are only two groups analyzed who give another group a mean rating of 33 or lower,” according to the report’s summary, “and the chilly feelings are mutual: Atheists rate evangelical Christians at a cold 29 degrees, while white evangelical Protestants place atheists at 33.”
Perhaps the most cheering results in the survey? First, we Jews not only have the love of others but overwhelming self-love, too. Most people felt warmly toward their own religious group, but Jews felt warmest of all: A full 91 percent of Jews felt warmly toward Jews. Which is kind of a surprising result, at least to any Jew who has ever served on a synagogue board or had a relative. Also, knowing a Jew correlates with liking a Jew: Of those who know a Jew, 72 percent feel warmly toward Judaism—a number that lags behind only Buddhists, who earn warmies from three-quarters of all those who know a Buddhist. Tomato, to-mah-to—let’s call the whole thing Namaste.
Mark Oppenheimer is a Senior Editor at Tablet. He hosts the podcast Unorthodox. He has contributed to Slate and Mother Jones, among many other publications. He is the author, most recently, of Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood. He will be hosting a discussion forum about this article on his newsletter, where you can subscribe for free and submit comments.