Jewish Voting

Jewish Voting

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Recent postings have addressed the issue of Jewish voting from a number of perspectives. Now, a major non-partisan study prepared by the Solomon Project has just been released, prepared by two Democratic pollsters and a respected political scientist from the University of Florida, which provides new and interesting additional data.

Barack Obama’s Jewish vote in 2008 has been revised downward based on their thorough review of the numbers, from 78% to 74%.  More importantly, however for Romney supporters, the study shows that overall, Democrats have been increasing their percentage of the Jewish vote since 1992 and not moving to the Republican Party. While Romney might do better in November than did John McCain, the likelihood that he will approach the Reagan 1980 vote of 39% of the Jewish vote is highly doubtful according to this analysis. (A recent Gallup poll showed Obama ahead of Romney 64%- 29% among Jewish voters, with 7% undecided; not nearly the dramatic drop that some Jewish Republicans have been promoting.)

As I have posted earlier and as I extended by remarks in this week’s New Jersey Jewish News, the nature of the Electoral College voting is the real issue. For  Romney to gain true positive push from the Jewish vote he would need to run exceedingly strong among Jews in the swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Colorado.

With respect to the Romney strategy there were two other observations in this study. The Israel issue is not nearly as salient for Jewish voters as some would like to assume. In fact, in April the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) said that among Jewish voters, Israel was the most important issue for only 4% of them. While his trip to Israel will nudge some independents, as the Solomon Project study reports, it is the “liberalness” of Jews that keeps them voting Democratic.  This also explains why, as Mitt Romney prepared to visit Israel after he attends the opening of the London Olympics, his campaign dispatched a team to Israel headed by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, seeking Romney support in Israel from approximately 160,000 Americans living in Israel who will be eligible to cast absentee ballots.

In addition, the study indicated that the major source of support for the GOP over the past years has come from among the more affiliated and religious within the Jewish community. While there are sizeable groups of Orthodox Jews in the swing states, in order to make a difference, Romney would have to sweep almost this entire segment of the Jewish community, plus the overall margin would have to be exceedingly tight.

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