Jews and Presidential Elections

Every four years we American Jews are honor-bound to write countless articles dissecting the Jewish vote in U.S. Presidential Elections.  This vote is almost invariably given to the Democratic candidate at around 78 percent, but had it gone otherwise in any past election, somebody surely would have predicted it in a pithy 700 word article filled with inside jokes such as “Whoever says ‘two Jews three opinions’ surely hasn’t witnessed American elections.”

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Some of us at Gather the Jews are just obsessed with the potential miniscule movements of the Jewish vote, and, accordingly, we will join the chorus of Jewish American political commentators and election seers.  But we’ll do so with a local twist.  Each week (to the best of our ability) starting today and ending in November, we will write one Jewish political article that talks about 1) Local Jewish political activity or opportunities for involvement Jewishly, and 2) The broader Jewish vote question.

If you have any information you think should be included in #1, or if you want to write something for #2, please let me know at stephen@gatherthejews.com

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Local

Over 100 gathered for the RJC’s July happy hour at Current Sushi in Dupont.

Democrat — The Democratic National Committee (DNC) will host an “Obama Shabbat” this Friday.  Speakers include Sixth & I’s Rabbi Shira Stutman Obama Campaign’s National Jewish Outreach Director Ira ForemanClick here to see how you can attend.

RepublicanThe Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) hosted a happy hour at Current Sushi in late July that attracted over 100 attendants.  The RJC is now encouraging local Jewish Republicans to participate in its September 9 + 10 Jewish outreach campaign in PA, FL, and OH.

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American Jewish Voter:  A Democratic Bloc
Stephen Richer

(A variation of this article appeared in the August edition of Italy’s pagine ebraiche).

It’s often said that “American Jews earn like Episcopalians, and vote like Puerto Ricans.” (Milton Himmelfarb)  Translated to more concrete terms, Jews are the highest earning religious group in the United States – 47 percent of Reform Jewish households earn over $100,000 per year; second place goes to Hindus at 43 percent.  (Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life)  Statistically speaking, wealthier voters tend to favor the Republican Party.  In almost every national election since 1988, voters with family incomes over $100,000 have favored the Republican Party. (The New York Times, Paul Krugman)

This is not the case for American Jews.  Despite their high earnings, American Jews vote like Puerto Ricans; that is to say they consistently, and overwhelmingly, favor the Democrats – the party of the American left.  Dating back to every Presidential Election since at least 1928, more American Jews have voted for the Democratic candidate than the Republican:  78 percent of Jews voted for President Obama in 2008; 76 voted for John Kerry in 2004; and 79 percent voted for Al Gore (and his Jewish running mate, Joe Lieberman) in 2000.  The lowest that Jewish Democratic support has dropped in recent years was in 1980, when only 45 percent of Jews voted for Jimmy Carter in his reelection bid.  However, this still outstripped Jewish support for the Republican candidate – Ronald Reagan – who won 39 percent of the Jewish vote that year.  (See Jewish voting chart, Jewish Virtual Library)

So how do we explain the Jewish voter’s Democratic disposition?  We’ll go into this in more detail in future columns, but here are a few simple explanations:

  1. Fear of the religious right.  Jewish voters still have a visceral fear of Christian zealots and the religious right, and these Christians are typically found in the Republican Party.
  2. Civil Rights.  American Jews played an important role in the 1960s and 1970s Civil Rights movement, and the Democratic Party was widely seen as more hospitable to this movement. 
  3. Social liberalism.  Jews are one of the most—if not the most—socially liberal groups in the country.  According to a study conducted in 2000, 88 percent of Jews are pro-choice.  In May, 2012, The New York Jewish Week reported that 81 percent of Jews support gay marriage.
  4. Secularism.  American Jews are highly secular.  A 2003 Harris Poll found that only 16 percent of American Jews go to synagogue at least once a month; 42 percent go between one and 11 times a year; and 42 percent go less than once a year. Secular Americans tend to favor the Democratic Party. (Gallup)

Reasons for Jewish Democratic support can be disputed.  So too can the likelihood of future Democratic support.  But what cannot be challenged is the Jewish voter’s steadfast historical support of the Democratic Party.

Year Candidate % of Jewish Vote
1928
Hoover (R) 28
Smith (D) 72
1932
Hoover (R) 18
Roosevelt (D) 82
1936
Landon (R) 15
Roosevelt (D) 85
1940
Wilkie (R) 10
Roosevelt (D) 90
1944
Dewey (R) 10
Roosevelt (D) 90
1948
Dewey (R) 10
Truman (D) 75
Wallace   (Progressive) 15
1952
Eisenhower (R) 36
Stevenson (D) 64
1956
Eisenhower (R) 40
Stevenson (D) 60
1960
Nixon (R) 18
Kennedy (D) 82
1964
Goldwater (R) 10
Johnson (D) 90
1968
Nixon (R) 17
Humphrey (D) 81
Wallace (I) 2
1972
Nixon (R) 35
McGovern (D) 65
1976
Ford (R) 27
Carter (D) 71
McCarthy (I) 2
1980
Reagan (R) 39
Carter (D) 45
Anderson (I) 14
1984
Reagan (R) 31
Mondale (D) 67
1988
Bush (R) 35
Dukakis (D) 64
1992
Bush (R) 11
Clinton (D) 80
Perot (I) 9
1996
Dole (R) 16
Clinton (D) 78
Perot (I) 3
2000
Bush (R) 19
Gore (D) 79
Nader (G) 1
2004
Bush (R) 24
Kerry (D) 76
Nader (G) <1
2008
McCain (R) 22
Obama (D) 78