Why Jews Are Democrats

Those of us who grew up as (and still are) Reform Jews know just how much contemporary American liberalism has become intertwined with our particular branch of the faith. Although I can mostly speak to my own experience, I think most Reform Jews can attest to the accuracy of those who describe it as “the Democratic Party at prayer.” Well, in recognition of Passover, a holiday whose standard observance practically begs for a left-wing interpretation, the Public Religion Research Institue conducted a survey on the values and political beliefs of American Jews of all denominations. And, spoiler alert, they’re consistently left wing.

46 percent of those surveyed said that “a commitment to social equality” was “most important to their Jewish identity,” well outpacing support for Israel and religious observance, which only garnered 20 and 17 percent respectively. Most strikingly, when asked about which issue would be most important to their vote, Israel and Iran garnered a measly 6 percent of respondents, compared to 15 percent who said income inequality and 10 percent who said health care (51 percent said the economy). This goes along with more than 2-1 support for Obama over Republican presidential candidates and “nearly identical to levels of support for Obama among Jewish registered voters at a comparable point in the 2008 campaign,” in which Obama won some 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

This is not very surprising: Jews have been staunch Democrats for decades and enthusiastic and consistent supporters of the President. Despite conservative efforts to win over Jews, and to always see the next presidential election as the one where finally their efforts to court Jewish voters finally pays off, it does not look like it going to happen in 2012. After all, inasmuch as there is daylight between American Jews and Obama when it comes to Israel (which has probably been reduced due to Obama not talking about settlements and ramping up sanctions on Iran), the GOP’s inattention to income inequality and embrace of drastic cuts in social spending are exactly the type of things that Jewish voters tend to care about. Until the GOP explicitly attempts to align themselves with Jews on anything else besides Iran and Israel, we can expect to see lopsided Jewish support for Democrats.