Religion and the race for the Knesset

How will observance level impact for which parties people vote?

An Israeli soldier chooses a ballot from behind a voting booth at an army base near the southern city of Ofakim March 15 (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli soldier chooses a ballot from behind a voting booth at an army base near the southern city of Ofakim March 15
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Religion plays a major role in shaping Israel’s culture and lifestyle, and according to data provided by the Israel Democracy Institute, could also impact the way Israelis vote in Tuesday’s general election.
Prof. Tamar Hermann, a senior fellow at IDI, analyzed data aggregated from three pre-election IDI surveys conducted in February and March, and found that about one-third (36%) of secular Jews plan to vote for the Blue and White Party. Similarly, 38% of traditional Jews plan to vote for Likud, and around the same percentage (31%) of National Religious Jews plan to vote for the Union of Right-Wing Parties.
Some 44% of the Jewish population in Israel is secular, 35% traditional and 15% religious.
Some 48% of ultra-Orthodox Jews plan to vote for United Torah Judaism, 14% for Shas and 11% for Likud. Haredim comprise about 10% of the Jewish population of Israel.
Hermann said that 69% of undecided voters are secular.
“They are not sure which party they will vote for,” Hermann explained. “They say Blue and White, but they have not really decided about this party and will only make their decision last minute. Maybe they’ll change their minds and vote Labor.”
Hermann said the Center has been challenged this election because of the reconfiguration of so many of its parties. Voters who chose Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid last election, for example, cannot choose Lapid without choosing Blue and White Party co-leader Benny Gantz, and Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon. She said that last month, IDI asked voters how confident they were in their party selection. Then, more than two-thirds of Center voters said there were not confident they would vote for the party they said they would.
Another interesting finding was that even though the New Right Party pitches itself as a Zionist right-wing party offering a common frame for secular and religious Jews, 55% of those who plan to vote for the New Right are traditional Jews. Twenty-five percent of people who say they will vote for the party are National Religious and only 18% are secular. Of all the secular Jewish voters, only 2.1% plan to vote for the New Right.
Hermann said she believes this is because most secular Jews are not in the extreme Right and “This is an extreme Right party.”
Further, she said the party “did not manage to make it clear to voters in which respects they were really different than their former incarnation as Habayit Hayehudi in terms of secular-religious relations in Israel, and issues of religion and state.
“They put a clear vision forward on security and the Supreme Court, but said very little about religious issues,” Hermann continued. “The secular is therefore suspicious of these two leaders.”
In general, Hermann said that outside of security, voters this election consider religion and state, and social-economic issues among their most important concerns.
Will people’s religious orientation ultimately impact election results?
Hermann said it is hard to know. Some 27.5% of Israelis do not believe the published results of polls will be reflected in the actual election results, and therefore we might not know until the final results are in.