Jewish votes matter. No, not due to anything nebulous like “the Israel lobby” or “money.” It’s voter turnout. In general around 52 to 54 percent of the American electorate bothers to vote. For American Jews, it’s 85 percent. In this fraught moment of broad political tensions and razor-thin margins, those votes become even more important.
This morning, J-Street, the progressive organization advocating for a two-state solution to Israel-Palestine, released “The 2018 Jewish Vote,” its post-election survey of the midterms conducted with GBA Strategies’ strategist Jim Gerstein.
It’s an interesting snapshot even if it holds few surprises. American Jews voted Democrat by a 76 to 19 percent margin—for one reason because most American Jews are already left-leaning; the second being their distaste for President Trump. Seventy-five percent of American Jews disapprove of how Trump is doing his job, compared to 54 percent of Americans at large.
(Incidentally, as a pollster on the conference call noted, Jared Kushner earned a 12 percent approval rate, which makes you wonder what 12 percent of American Jews are smoking.)
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The strong disapproval of Trump and his proxies is likely due to the president’s connections to right-wing extremism. American Jews are relatively well-educated and well-off, but they’re still members of a minority, subject to the vulnerabilities the word implies. Seventy-eight percent of American Jews believe that anti-Semitism is increasing in the United States, with an unsurprising 72 percent believing that Trump’s rhetoric is “very or somewhat responsible” for the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. Even among Republican Jews, 31% believe Trump is “very or somewhat responsible.
For American Jews, Israel is a still a big—if complicated—deal. While they remain emotionally attached to Israel, their dislike of Israeli policy is growing. The survey reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorability “has dropped to a nine-year low (35 percent favorable/32 percent unfavorable),” and Israeli policy towards Palestinians and the settlements “makes them feel more negative toward Israel.”
Eighty-four percent of of American Jews believe that it is possible to be “pro-Israel” even while criticizing the government’s policies.
The takeaway: Despite years of prognostications from Republicans that they’re just about to break right, American Jews are like they’ve been for decades—Democratic and strongly attached to Israel—only more so.