Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Jewish Vote

Looking at the results of the last election, I noticed that when it comes to wooing Jewish voters, the Republican Party continues having a Jewish problem.

In the last election, Barack Obama, despite the initial negatives of his association with Rev. Wright and Rashid Khalidi, ended up receiving 78% of the Jewish vote.

Arguing that Bush fatigue and the financial crisis were contributors to this outcome would be a logical conclusion, where it not for the fact that Jews voted for Kerry in almost the same proportion four years earlier. And so it went for decades.

It is clear that the Jewish electorate identifies itself as Democrat or liberal, with a meager 24% identifying themselves as conservatives. Thus, affiliation with a party that purports to represent the social values that are important to many Jews, trumps voting for the party that has been most supportive of Israel.

As a supporter of Israel who is convinced that protecting Israel is in the best interest of the United States, I am worrried; and a new study conducted by Professors Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College, and Samuel J. Abrams of Harvard University, has done very little to quell my concern. Their study concluded that Israel has diminished in importance when it comes to the political thinking of young Jews.

In this poll, 54% of Jews 65 or older, answered that Israel ranked high or very high in their political thinking and in determining for which candidate to vote.

For Jews age 35 to 64 the number was 39% and for those younger than 35 only 29% consider Israel a top priority.

These numbers concern me not only when it comes to presidential elections, but also with local and state elections of Congressmen and Senators, where many are being elected in districts or states with shifting populations, and whose support for Israel might not be as solid as it used to be. As new immigrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa arrive and become citizens, candidates will look at these polls with tremendous interest and will act accordingly, and perhaps to the detriment of Israel and Jewish interests.

However, one group within the Jewish community might help reverse the anti-Republican trend; namely Orthodox Jews. Among this group with their high birthrate the majority identify themselves as conservatives or Republicans. If this continues, in a few years we might see Democratic Jews sipping Chardonnay while the Republican ones sip Manischewitz.


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