Survey: Only 20% of Israelis Consider Themselves Secular

Number halved since 1970s; claim of religious affiliation higher among Mizrahim.

Just 20 percent of Jews in Israel describe themselves as secular, according to a recent poll. Since the early 1970s, surveys that have measured Israeli Jews' affinity to tradition have fluctuated among various communities. But the recent figures represent a new low point for the secular community. For example, in 1974, the number of those describing themselves as secular stood at more than 40 percent.

The new Democracy Index conducted by the Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute, is based on 1,016 interviews. It includes a breakdown along general national and cultural origins, namely Ashkenazim (Jews of European descent), Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) and Israelis (both the subjects and their parents born in Israel).

Of the Israelis, 85 percent claimed some form of religious affiliation, compared with 93 percent of the Mizrahim and 64 percent of the Ashkenazim.

Describing themselves as religious were 56 percent of the Mizrahim compared with 17 percent of the Ashkenazim.

The current survey, as in previous polls, reflects a link between secularism and age, education and political views. Younger people are more religious, people with academic degrees are more secular, and the secular tend to identify more with the left.