Polling data may back up claims of voters' religious suspicions of Sen. Bernie Sanders that surfaced in one of the most damaging of the leaked Democratic National Committee emails, according to a Jewish historian.
Writing in The Weekly Standard,
Rafael Medoff notes the most widely cited of conspiratorial anti-Sanders emails — from the DNC's chief financial officer Brad Marshall — focuses on
whether the Vermont senator is an atheist.
An outraged Sanders denied the claim
Sunday, Marshall apologized and DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz is resigning her post in the wake of the devastating email.
Marshall's email to the party's communications director shortly before the West Virginia and Kentucky presidential primaries suggests:
"It might ma[ke] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist."
Medoff writes what Marshall "evidently meant was that evangelical voters would not be troubled by the fact that Sanders is Jewish, but might turn against him if they believed he is an atheist."
"Available polling data seems to support that assessment," he argues.
For example, he writes, the Pew Research Center's
survey of American religious groups' attitudes toward other religions in 2014 found that white Protestant evangelicals feel more positively toward Jews than toward members of any other religious group.
Evangelicals gave Jews the highest score, 69 (out of 100) and atheists the lowest, 25—lower than Muslims, who received a 30.
In the same Pew study, Jews gave their lowest score, 34, to evangelicals.
In a 2012 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, Jews likewise gave the "Christian Right" their lowest rating, 20.9 out of 100, Medoff reports.
According to Conservative rabbi and historian Arthur Hertzberg, writing in a 1984 op-ed piece for the New York Times, for many American Jews, politics ultimately "is about how to avoid expulsions and pogroms," Medoff writes.
"Many Jews perceive evangelicals as a pretty scary bunch," Medoff writes. "Whether those assumptions are based on empirical evidence, or simply on outmoded stereotypes, merits further consideration."
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