Monday, December 17, 2007

What Jewish Vote?

Seriously, what is this Jewish vote that we hear about each election? You know, the one the Republicans are perpetually on the verge of attracting in big numbers, the one that instead keeps on voting for the Democratic ticket?

One place to start to understand the Jewish vote would be The American Jewish Committee's 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. It is divided into 5 sections:

A. International Affairs
B. Israel
C. National Affairs
D. Anti-Semitism
E. Jewish Identity

The National Affairs section, which deals with political affiliation, shows that 58% of Jews in the US view identify themselves as Democrats, while only 15% see themselves as Republicans (26% as Independent and 2% not sure).

No surprise there.

Now keep in mind how this compares with Jewish Identity:
34. How important would you say being Jewish is in your own life?
Very important 61
Fairly important 29
Not very important 10
37. How close do you feel to Israel?
Very close30
Fairly close 40
Fairly distant 21
Very distant 8
Not sure 1

38. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.”
Agree 69
Not Sure3

Pretty decent numbers that show just as the majority of Jews in the US consider themselves Democrats, so too do they consider Israel to be important to their being Jewish.

But then there is this:
19. In deciding who you would like to see elected president next year, which issue will be most important to you? Please select one of the following:
War in Iraq 16
Economy and jobs23
Terrorism and national security14
Health care19
Support for Israel6
Education 4
Energy crisis6
Not sure5

The talk only goes just so far. For many, identification seems to go only so far--a convenient, touchy-feely abstraction. We're only talking about rating priorities here--not about making Aliyah or giving big bucks. Yet for all the talk of Jewish identification, support for Israel--at a time when she is arguably facing the most dangerous threats and strongest pressure--does not seem to rate with American Jews, most of whom are voting the Democratic ticket.

The question is: how Jewish is the Jewish identification we are talking about here.
And how Jewish is the Jewish vote that Democrats and Republicans are fighting over.

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