Valentine's Day marriage surveys conducted among Jewish & Arab Israelis

The majority of Jewish & Arab Israelis support marriage freedom

72% of Jewish Israelis and 76% of Arab Israelis support the statement that "every resident [of Israel] has the right to get married in Israel with whomever he chooses, in whatever way he chooses, and according to his beliefs."

72% of Jewish Israelis and 76% of Arab Israelis support the statement that "every resident [of Israel] has the right to get married in Israel with whomever he chooses, in whatever way he chooses, and according to his beliefs." 72% of the Jewish Israeli public but only 43% of the Arab Israeli public support allowing civil marriage and divorce in Israel.

The data once again prove that the policy of many successive Israeli governments goes directly against the will of the public, which supports allowing all people to express their love in marriages of their choosing, as well as the elimination of religious coercion in marriage and divorce in Israel.

72% of the Jewish population and 76% of the Arab population support the statement that "every resident [of Israel] has the right to get married in Israel with whomever he chooses, in whatever way he chooses, according to his faith." Despite these high levels of support, the Jewish and Arab sectors understand this right differently.

72% of Jewish Israelis, but only 43% of Arab Israelis support the introduction of civil marriage and divorce in Israel. 66% of the Jewish public does not trust the State rabbinical courts, and 67% believe that these courts discriminate against women. Nevertheless, 67% of the Jewish public would still prefer to have Orthodox weddings for themselves and their children as long as no marriage alternatives are recognized by the State. In contrast, 88% of Arab Israelis would prefer to have religious marriages, 50% expressed confidence in their religious courts, and 71% do not believe these courts discriminate against women. These positions change when it comes to the younger generation. 60% of young Arab respondents (ages 25-34) support instituting civil marriage and divorce, compared to only 27% of Arabs ages 65 and older. 79% of secular Arabs, 44% of traditional Arabs, and 31% of religious Arabs support civil marriage and divorce.

51% of the Jewish Israeli public are dissatisfied with the parties they voted for in the last Knesset elections, regarding these parties’ actions on matters of marriage freedom. The majority of voters for the non-religious Government Coalition parties expressed their dissatisfaction in this regard. Only 24% of Arab respondents thought that the United Arab List party should support the enactment of civil marriage and divorce, and 61% thought that the United Arab List party should not support these measures.

The two surveys were conducted by the Smith Polling Institute and the Yafa Research Institute for Valentine's Day, February 14. This is the first time the Arab population's positions on marriage and divorce freedom and related matters have been surveyed. The two surveys were conducted in parallel - one in the Jewish sector, and one in the Arab sector. The survey of Jewish Israelis was conducted by the Smith Institute on September 27, 2016 among a representative sample of 500 adult Jewish Israelis. The survey of Arab Israelis was conducted by the Yafa Institute on October 1-5, 2016 among a representative sample of 512 adult Arab Israelis.

To be recognized by the State, all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by religious authorities of officially State recognized religious communities to which both members of the couple belong. Jewish Israelis can only legally marry through the Chief Rabbinate, and the religious authorities for the Christian, Druze, and Muslim populations regulate the rites of marriage and divorce in their respective communities. Israel does not have a legal framework for civil marriage or divorce, for same-sex unions, for marriage between two individuals who belong to different religions, or for marriage when either of the two partners is registered as "having no religion". Since this affects all religious communities in Israel, Hiddush decided to survey the positions held by Israel's Arab sector, which consists of Christians, Druze, and Muslims, representing some 20% of Israel’s population.

These Hiddush surveys reveal for the first time the Arab Israeli public's views on marriage freedom and related issues. Support for marriage freedom and dissolving the Chief Rabbinate's religious monopoly enjoy widespread support throughout the Jewish Israeli public. The Arab Israeli public is more conservative, and the percentage of secular Arabs is lower than that among Jews, but the younger generation of Arab Israelis is increasingly liberal on these issues and supports freedom of choice. The data once again proves that the policy of many successive Israeli governments, from both right and left, goes directly against the will of the public! The overwhelming majority of Israelis support allowing all people to express their love in marriages of their choosing, as well as the elimination of religious coercion in marriage and divorce in Israel. The work before civil society organizations and supporters of marriage freedom is challenging, and many obstacles stand between us and true freedom of choice. It is unconscionable that Israel remains the only Western democracy that denies its citizens the freedom of marriage.

 

Findings in Detail

The survey found that 72% of Jewish Israelis agree with the statement that "every resident of Israel has the right to get married in Israel with whomever he chooses, in whatever way he chooses, and according to his beliefs." 95% of secular Jewish Israelis support this statement, as do 67% of traditional Jewish Israelis.

76% of the Arab Israeli sector also agrees with this statement, including 71% of Christians, 76% of Druze, and 79% of Muslims.

60% of the Jewish public is in favor of instituting State recognized parallel tracks for marriage and divorce, both civil and religious, and allowing every couple to choose between these. 12% of the Jewish public favors making civil marriage & divorce required for all couples, and those who want religious marriage ceremonies would need to hold them in addition to their State recognized civil marriages. Only 28% support maintaining the religious monopoly over marriage and divorce, as things stand now. Among secular Jewish Israelis, only 2% expressed support for the Chief Rabbinate's current monopoly, in comparison to 90% of ultra-Orthodox and 77% of Zionist Orthodox respondents that support it. Support for civil marriage was high among voters for the non-religious Government Coalition parties: 72% of Likud voters, 89% of Kulanu voters, and 88% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters support instituting civil marriage and divorce in Israel. Among voters for the religious parties, 43% of Jewish Home voters, 11% of Shas voters, and 8% of United Torah Judaism voters support allowing civil marriage and divorce.

Among Arab Israelis, only 43% support the enactment of civil marriage and divorce in Israel, and 57% support maintaining the religious monopoly on marriage and divorce. However, there is great support for marriage freedom among young Arabs between the ages of 25-34: 60% favor introducing civil marriage and divorce, compared with only 27% of Arab adults over the age of 65. 79% of secular Arabs support civil marriage and divorce, as do 44% of traditional Arabs, and 31% of religious Arabs.

Assuming that the State of Israel were to institute civil marriage along with religious marriage, 31% percent of Jewish respondents would prefer to get married in civil marriage ceremonies, and the percentage of those who would prefer to get married in religious marriage ceremonies is 60%. In such a scenario, 9% would still prefer to cohabitate without getting married.

So long as an alternative to the religious monopoly does not exist in Israel, 67% of the Jewish public would prefer to have religious wedding ceremonies for themselves and their children, 16% would prefer to get civilly married abroad, and 17% would prefer to cohabitate without getting officially married. 42% of the secular Jewish population and 86% of the traditional Jewish population prefer to have religious wedding ceremonies. Among Zionist Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, 100% prefer religious wedding ceremonies. Clearly, more Jews would prefer civil marriage if it enjoyed legal recognition, but for most of them it isn't enough of a priority, or they can't financially afford to travel abroad to get married. According to the data, instituting civil marriage in Israel would increase the number of couples who decide to get married, rather than cohabitate without getting married.

Please note that in order to facilitate comparisons between the positions of the Arab and Jewish populations, respondents were presented with a choice between "religious marriage", "civil marriage", and "cohabitation without marriage". In this particular Hiddush survey, the Jewish population wasn't presented with the alternative of having religious non-Orthodox wedding ceremonies (i.e. Conservative and Reform), as was included in the 2016 Israel Religion & State Index several months ago. When all alternatives were presented, the percentage of Jewish respondents who expressed their preference for Orthodox marriage fell to 53%, civil marriage rose to 26%, and 15% expressed their preference for Reform or Conservative wedding ceremonies. In the current survey - among secular Jews, 56% favored civil marriage, and 29% - religious marriage. In the 2016 Israel Religion & State Index, which included the alternative of Reform and Conservative wedding ceremonies, 45% of secular Jewish Israelis preferred civil marriage, 21% - Conservative or Reform, and only 22% expressed their preference for Orthodox wedding ceremonies.

Only 12% of the Arab sector responded that they would prefer to have civil weddings for themselves or their children abroad or cohabitate without getting married (with or without an official wedding ceremony). 88% of Arab respondents expressed their preference for religious marriage ceremonies. In contrast to secular Jews, a high percentage of secular Arabs (66%) would prefer to have religious wedding ceremonies.

Given the assumption that civil marriage were to be instituted in Israel, fewer Arab Israelis would still be interested in having religious marriage ceremonies: 81% would prefer religious wedding ceremonies, and 19% would prefer civil marriage or cohabitation.

51% of the Jewish Israeli public is dissatisfied with the parties they voted for in the last Knesset elections when it comes to promoting or preventing the institutionalization of marriage freedom in Israel. This includes 65% of secular Jews and 49% of traditional Jews. 49% of Jewish Israelis expressed satisfaction, including 80% of Zionist Orthodox and 89% of ultra-Orthodox Jews who expressed their satisfaction with their chosen political parties' efforts at preventing marriage freedom. Among voters for the Government Coalition parties, 51% of Likud, 68% of Kulanu, 72% of Yisrael Beiteinu, 19% of Jewish Home, 13% of Shas, and 5% of United Torah Judaism voters expressed their dissatisfaction. Among voters for the Opposition parties, 76% of Zionist Union, 48% of Yesh Atid, and 32% of Meretz voters expressed their dissatisfaction.

24% of respondents from the Arab sector indicated that they expect the United Arab List to support the implementation of civil marriage and divorce, while 61% held that the party need not support this.

 

Additional Findings

Trust in the religious courts:
66% of the Jewish Israeli public does not trust the rabbinical courts, and 67% believe they discriminate against women. 50% of Arab Israelis trust in their religious courts, and 71% do not believe their courts discriminate against women.

Age of marriage for women:
Most Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, oppose underage marriages;
90% of Jewish and 95% of Arab Israelis believe that the lowest age for women to get married at should be 18.

The identity of the marriage partner:
Most Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, maintain that the bride should be able to choose her husband;
93% of the Jewish population, but only 66% of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Among Arab Israelis, 66% hold this view.

Mixed marriages:
50% of the Jewish sector and 57% of the Arab sector oppose marriages between Jews and Arabs. 14% and 16% respectively would support such marriages if one of the partners were to convert to the other's religion.

Polygamy:
Among Arab Israelis, opposition to polygamy is high: 80%. Opposition is particularly high among Arab women: upwards of 91%. Even among Muslims, only 22% support polygamy and 78% oppose it.
Among Jewish Israelis, 77% expressed their opposition, but the pollsters believe that the Jewish respondents may not have understood the question correctly because polygamy in the formal sense of the word is a very rare phenomenon among Jews.

Cohabitation without marriage:
The Arab respondents were asked about their attitudes regarding the growing phenomenon of cohabitation without marriage among Jewish Israelis. 91% were opposed to this, including 97% of female Arab respondents. Support among Jewish Israelis for cohabitation was 57%, and among secular Jewish Israelis - 81%.



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