Chill. The Jews Aren’t Voting Republican.

Faith-based policy, nativism, and Ayn Randian economics will not create a Jewish electoral shift.

Gershom Gorenberg

My new column is up at The American Prospect.

Forecasts of the Great Jewish Shift began as soon as the presidential campaign did: This year, we are told, Jews will finally vote Republican, or at least significantly more of them will than have done so in many a decade, perhaps forever. The predictions are a quadrennial ritual. They are made most often by Jewish Republicans, speaking in the bright voice of a compulsive gambler who knows that on this spin, the little ball will absolutely land on the right number. They are made by social scientists certain that reality will finally behave according to their models. They are made by Jewish Democrats as unable to control their anxiety as someone is to stop a tic. This year’s minor variation is the explanation that Jews will switch because they are upset with Barack Obama’s attitude toward Israel.

As an Israeli political writer, I admit, I am particularly conscious of this ritual, because the Great Jewish Shift (GJS) is the second thing that people want to discuss with me as soon as I get off the plane in America, after they ask me if Benjamin Netanyahu will bomb Iran and before I have put down my suitcase. I do not know if Netanyahu will bomb Iran; he does not tell me such things. However, I submit that there is considerable public evidence that the GJS will not happen this year. A newly released survey of American Jews provides the latest data. History and the Republicans’ demonstrative cluelessness about Jewish voters provide more.

The survey, conducted by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in Washington, found that 62 percent of Jewish voters want to reelect Obama, compared to 30 percent who’d vote for a generic Republican. Let’s reframe that: 92 percent of Jews say they’ve made up their mind. Of them, just over two-thirds would vote for the incumbent, and one-third for the GOP challenger.

Yes, this would be a drop-off from the 78 percent of Jews who voted Obama last time around, according to exit polls. It would not be a vast historic shift. Republican contenders won between 31 and 39 percent of the Jewish vote in four out of the five elections between 1972 and 1988. But the poll results do not actually suggest even that much of a change since the 2008 election. “Current levels of support for Obama among Jewish voters are nearly identical” to those “at a comparable point in the 2008 campaign,” says the PRRI polling report. Between the spring of 2008 and November that year, Obama’s Jewish support rose. Was that a result of one-time, nearly accidental circumstances, such as John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin? Probably not. Suspected of moderation, McCain needed a running mate to satisfy the Republican base—and even a more qualified ultra-conservative would have been a deal-killer for wavering Jewish voters. Massachusetts Mitt Romney will face similar pressure to reassure his right flank. Besides, I suspect that Palin was a pretext, rather than a cause, for many Jews to return to the fold.

It’s one thing to register under-satisfaction with the Democratic candidate by telling a pollster in the spring you’ll vote Republican. It’s another to defy upbringing and instinct to mark the ballot that way in November, especially while imagining your brother or aunt asking you over Thanksgiving dinner how you voted.

If Obama does lose some Jewish support, Israel won’t be the reason. Only 4 percent of PRRI’s respondents listed Israel as the most important issue for them in the election, and only another 5 percent listed it in second place. Some of those were already in the Republican camp, perhaps most. Anyone who is terribly impressed that Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu are old friends from their days as apprentice robber barons was not a likely Obama voter to begin with. …

Read the rest here.

2 thoughts on “Chill. The Jews Aren’t Voting Republican.”

  1. When discussing the gender gap (Romney’s trailing Obama by 20 points among female voters –,0,6036145.story ), there’s confidence that economics will trump concern over Republican policy setting back women’s rights by 40 years.

    But the rub, as you point out, is that the Republican plans are to help the economy for the wealthiest first, and pretend that making the Bush tax cuts permanent is something other than fiscal insanity for a nation struggling with its sovereign debt.

    It’s hard to see a big shift happening over that.

    With one quarter of American children experiencing hunger [ ], it’s just as likely there will be a shift away from Republicans to “relieve the oppressed” and “plead for the widow”.

  2. How is it possible for one-quarter of America’s children supposedly “experiencing hunger” when the gang in power is the “caring, empathizing, liberal, socialist-inclined, pro-little-man” Obama-Jewish liberal Administration?

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