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Jewish Americans Don't Vote with Israel in Mind, They Vote as Liberals

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Jewish Americans Don't Vote with Israel in Mind, They Vote as Liberals

Los Angeles Times October 28, 2016
OtherNational Security & Terrorism

Though Jewish Americans represent just 2% of the population, politicians — and would-be politicians — have long considered the “Jewish vote” a prize worth pursuing. That’s actually not irrational. Jews contribute a disproportionate amount of money to political candidates and causes; many Jews live in the swing states of Florida (846,700 of 19.9 million), Pennsylvania (324,700 of 12.8 million), Ohio (173,700 of 11.6 million), and Michigan (105,200 of 9.9 million); and Jews tout a stellar turnout record of  80%, according to multiple sources. 

Israel was the 'most important' voting issue for a mere 4% of respondents in the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2012 Jewish Values survey.

It sometimes feels, nonetheless, like many campaigns are stuck in a time warp, or rather an alternate universe. They’re spending thousands of dollars — and in some cases millions — to sway Jewish voters chiefly based on the false notion that Israel is terribly important to a majority of Jewish Americans.

Israel was the “most important” voting issue for a mere 4% of respondents in the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2012 Jewish Values survey. Israel was one of two top “voting issue priorities” for just 10% in a J Street poll conducted around the same time. More recently, “U.S.-Israel relations” was the most important issue for only 7.2% in the American Jewish Committee’s 2015 study of Jewish American opinion, ranking fifth behind “economy” (41.7%), “national security” (12.3%), “healthcare” (12%), and “income inequality” (11.6%). It was the second and the third-most important issue for only 7.6% and 11.1%, respectively.

The relevance of Israel to mainstream Jewish Americans will further diminish due to various secularizing factors. Recent years have seen profound assimilation and a high rate of marriage outside the faith among non-Orthodox Jews. (Since 2000, the rate has been more than 70%.) Additionally, the donor generations of Jewish Americans, those who remember the existential crises of the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War and who chiefly fund Zionist institutions, are growing old. They were the last Jewish Americans raised when Israel was widely viewed as a David, a valiant democratic-socialist experiment, rather than a Goliath, a repressive neo-imperialist undertaking. 

Indeed, the Pew Research Center’s landmark 2013 survey “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” found that caring about Israel was...

Read the entire piece here at the Los Angeles Times

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Jonathan Bronitsky is a political historian writing a biography of Irving Kristol, to be published by Oxford University Press. 

This piece was adapted from City Journal Online

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