Fewer American Jews now identify as Democrats, poll finds

Gallup survey shows 10% decline over past seven years in political alignment.

American and Israeli flags (photo credit: REUTERS)
American and Israeli flags
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The number of American Jews who identify as Democrats dropped by 10 percent over the past seven years, according to survey results released by Gallup.
Meanwhile, the number of Jews identifying as Republicans has increased slightly but remains little changed overall.
Sixty-one percent of American Jews identified as either Democrats or Democratic-leaning in 2014, down from 71% in 2008, while 29% counted themselves in the Republican camp, the survey released on Tuesday found.
According to an analysis of the numbers by Gallup’s Frank Newport, the “diminished Democratic skew among American Jews in recent years is slightly more pronounced than the same trend among all Americans,” with identification with the party down by 7% in the same time period among the general population.
Jewish identification with the GOP jumped by seven points during the same period, as opposed to only 3% among all Americans.
While there are slight disparities between the general trends and those found among US Jews, they are reflective of the general direction in which Americans are headed politically, Gallup found.
Among the trends noted, Jewish men and the religious are more likely to be Republicans than women and the secular, while those with advanced degrees tended to be less likely to vote conservative than their less educated counterparts.
“The general Democratic orientation of American Jews is a well-established political fact, although this Democratic slant has decreased marginally in recent years,” Gallup found.
Given the small sample sizes with which pollsters deal in determining voter trends among American Jews when surveying the general population, it can be challenging to ascertain the issues on which Jews in the two major parties disagree, “although most news accounts suggest that US relations with Israel is certainly one of them,” Newport wrote.
Not everyone agrees with that assessment, however.
“Except for a small number of American Jews, Israel does not figure prominently in their electoral decision-making or partisan identification,” said Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
“On surveys, when asked what determines their vote, several domestic concerns rank higher than Israel.
In addition, Democratic voters, Jewish and otherwise, tend to oppose construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and have a skeptical view of the sincerity of Israeli leaders truly seeking peace with the Palestinians,” Cohen told The Jerusalem Post.
Shifts in the general American electorate are the primary drivers behind the slight narrowing of the Democratic lead over the GOP, he continued.
“Jews are still far more Democratic than the rest of the country.”
Cohen added that differences between the US administration and Israeli leaders have had scant impact on Jews’ party preferences, partly because the vast majority of liberals, Jewish or not, “support the general directions of the Obama administration.”
Jewish support for the president from August to mid-September stood 13 points higher than the average approval rating, according to another Gallup poll. Sixty-nine percent of Jews cast ballots for President Barack Obama in 2012, down from 78% in 2008. Both tallies are in line with the general trends seen among Jewish voters over the past century.
These trends are reversed among American expatriate voters in Israel, however, according to Matt Solomon, the national director of iVoteIsrael, an organization that works to register American immigrants to vote in US elections.
According to Solomon, 85% of US voters here went Republican during the 2012 presidential election, while 63% voted for the GOP when choosing congressional representation.
American voters in Israel are “much less partisan oriented than the typical American Jewish voter,” with three-quarters identifying US-Israel relations, Iran, Jerusalem and Israeli security as their most important issues, Solomon said. This is “not the typical partisan issue and frankly [is] one of the rare areas where you can find a lot of bipartisan collaboration.
“Americans in Israel are not subjected to the same partisan messaging or are [not] even familiar with most of the issues that separate the parties and therefore tend to look at candidates independent of their party affiliation.
However, they do place a higher level of scrutiny on whether the candidate sufficiently supports a strong US-Israel relationship or whether a given candidate may improve/harm the relationship or aid/undermine Israel in some capacity.”
According to the Pew Research Center’s study “Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 114th Congress,” which was released on Monday, “Jews continue to have greater representation in Congress (5%) than in the population as a whole (2%), but there are five fewer Jewish members in the 114th Congress than there were in the 113th, and 11 fewer than there were in the 112th Congress.”
Of 234 Democrats in the new Congress, 27 are Jewish, while there is only one among the 301 Republicans, according to Pew.