In the opening line of his Fox News op-ed, Kenneth Bandler asserts that “American Jews are likely to stick to tradition on Election Day.” Tradition being that Jews vote Democrat. Bandler argues that while the media can be obsessive about the candidates’ views on Israel, in reality the average American voter cares more about other issues, such as healthcare, or the economy. The Jewish population, writes Bandler, are not single issue voters.
[Above: The results of the AJC survey show that about 65% of Jewish voters support Obama. Visit www.ajc.org for complete results.]
Bandler’s op-ed is likely penned in response to what appears – anecdotally at least – as a rise in enthusiasm among Jewish voters for Republican candidates. The typical reason for this change is that in recent years, particularly starting with the George W. Bush presidency, the GOP is seen as a stronger ally of the Jewish state.
A survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee, where Bandler is director of media relations, did indeed find that 71% of Jews agree say that “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew,” but 61% said they approve of the way Obama is handling the bilateral relationship. So Jews aren’t voting Republican in droves – anecdotal evidence notwithstanding. Despite this, there’s no doubt voting patterns are changing. We’d have to do some research, but our guess is that when asked the same question in 1996, more than 61% of American Jews approved of Bill Clinton’s handling of the US-Israel relationship.
Bandler does point out that the fairly consistent Jewish support of Obama across age and gender runs into a snag with one particular demographic: the Orthodox. But the Orthodox Jewish vote doesn’t have a strong impact on presidential elections, since the majority of that population is based in traditionally Democrat states, such as New York or California. Their impact will be felt in local, but not federal, elections.
A percentage of the Jewish vote is swinging conservative – not only in ideology but in the voting booth too. If Democrats continue to assume they have the Jewish vote, they may end up being surprised – maybe not this year, but perhaps not too far off either.
Do you agree with Bandler’s analysis that the Jewish vote will go to the Democrats this year? Or are mainstream Jewish institutions underestimating the appeal of the GOP? And make sure to vote in the poll running on the IJN homepage – let us know what issue is driving your vote.