(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.
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
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
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
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.
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