The facts about the Jewish vote in the US

Jewish backing of Democrats has grown over time; Jewish support for Democrats far outpaces the party’s support nationwide.

By KENNETH WALD
July 30, 2012 22:56
3 minute read.
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AIPAC 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The debate arises in every presidential campaign: Will this be the election when pundits, pollsters and prognosticators ask when American Jews will break their longtime alliance with the Democratic Party and start to embrace Republican candidates? Will Jewish voters migrate toward the right side of the aisle once and for all? With Republicans concentrating on attracting the Jewish community to their ranks, will Jewish voting behavior change?

To get to the bottom of these questions, let’s first take a look at some of the basics. American Jews make up no more than two percent of the US population, yet manage to play an outsized role across the broad spectrum of national politics.

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Dating back to the 1920’s, Jewish voters have consistently, repeatedly and overwhelmingly voted for Democratic candidates at the presidential, statewide, congressional and local levels. And despite the belief that Jews would follow in the footsteps of other ethnic groups in growing more politically conservative as they became more established in the United States, the Jewish community has remained, by and large, a staunch, reliable Democratic constituency.

This, and recognizing the ongoing fascination with Jewish voter patterns among the political classes, led the non-partisan Solomon Project to release a report analyzing the Jewish vote over the past four decades. The results illuminate clear trends and habits, and demonstrate incredible consistency in Democratic support among the Jewish community.

Though the sample size is small, this analysis paints a clear picture of American-Jewish political participation, delving deeply into the details of state and national polling data, party breakdowns, age, gender, marital status, level of religious observance, and a host of other factors.

The report illustrates a few clear facts. First, breaking down the research into two eras, Jewish backing of Democratic candidates has actually grown over time. Next, Jewish support for Democrats far outpaces the party’s support nationwide. Finally, a majority of Jews identify themselves as Democrats and a plurality as liberals – and those numbers have remained remarkably stable over time.

Digging deeper, the study determines that Jewish women and more highly-educated Jews are more likely to vote Democratic than the rest of the community.

Older Jewish voters continue to vote for Democrats at incredibly high rates and there is no evidence to suggest that younger voters will move away from Democrats in the future. On the other end of the age spectrum, more than three-quarters of Jewish voters under the age of 30 have sided with Democrats in the past three presidential elections.

Since 1992, Jewish backing for Democrats has risen compared to previous decades – and there is no concrete reason to believe any hype about lasting or sustained gains for Republicans.

Despite the predictions of Republican strategists and conservative analysts, the numbers tell a clear story: the American-Jewish community has stood with the Democratic Party in election after election. Is there any reason to expect much change in November? The polling shows that Jewish voters continue to approve of US President Barack Obama’s job performance and policies – from his efforts to revitalize to the economy to his landmark health-reform legislation. If history is any guide, it appears that Obama will earn their confidence, trust – and most importantly – their votes in the fall.

Between now and November there is going to be a lot of talk about the Jewish vote. According, to data since 1972, American Jews have been Democrats for decades and whatever happens on election day, it’s important to remember to inspire our political discourse with facts and figures. The Solomon Project was able to give us some numbers to actually analyze the voting behavior of the Jewish community in a data-based way.

Dr. Kenneth Wald is a co-author of the new Jewish vote analysis by the nonpartisan Solomon Project, ‘Jewish American Voting Behavior 1972-2008: Just the Facts.’ Wald is the Samuel R. ‘Bud’ Shorstein Professor of American Jewish Culture & Society at the University of Florida and was a contributor to the book, Jews in American Politics.


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