For years we have heard it every election season: Democrats are losing Jewish voters to Republicans. The predictions are no different for the 2016 presidential race.
Do not bet on it. Jews have been, and will remain, solidly behind Democratic candidates. And, when it comes to presidential elections, we need to go all the way back to 1920 to find a Republican candidate, Warren Harding, who received a larger percentage of the Jewish vote than did the Democrat. In fact, the Democratic candidate received the plurality, if not the vast majority, of the Jewish vote in every other presidential election since 1916.
The 2016 election will be no different. An American Jewish Committee survey already shows Hillary Clinton to be the leading choice among American Jews. That is because most Jews line up with the Democratic Party’s platform, with a full 70 percent of American Jews leaning toward the Democratic Party while just 22 percent lean toward the Republican Party, according to the Pew Research Center.
Studies by Pew and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirm that American Jews continue to identify as liberal and more strongly than other Americans support the rights of gays and lesbians, a woman’s right to choose, environmental regulations, equal pay for women in the workforce and immigrants.
A majority of Jews also believes that government aid to the poor does more good than harm, according to Pew. At least 8-in-10 American Jews, according to PRRI, say that pursuing justice (84 percent) and caring for the widow and the orphan (80 percent) are somewhat or very important values that inform their political beliefs and activity — values seen in the bread-and-butter efforts that the Democratic Party supports.
Jews are more accepting of gays and lesbians than are other Americans. Seventy-seven percent of Jews said they support marriage equality, compared with 53 percent of all Americans, while acceptance of “homosexuality in society” — as Pew termed it — grew between 2007 and 2014 from 70 percent to 81 percent among Jews and from 50 percent to 62 percent among all Americans.
The survey also found that the percentage of Jews who identify as liberal grew from 38 percent to 43 percent — an indication they are increasingly unlikely to vote for Republicans. As for reproductive rights, PRRI found that 93 percent of Jews favor a woman’s right to choose — including 77 percent of Jewish Republicans.
On tax and budget issues, American Jews join Democrats in supporting a fair system that does not balance the budget on the backs of the least fortunate among us. It is time to address the real damage that ill-advised deficit reduction policies have had on people and take advantage of decreasing deficits, which are driven both by the improving economy and the very real savings in health care costs resulting from the Affordable Care Act, to make our economic system more fair. Republicans, though, would rather tear down the ACA, jeopardizing health care for millions of Americans.
And, when it comes to environmental regulations, Pew found 71 percent of Jews say stricter laws and regulations are worth their cost compared with just 39 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of all Americans.
As the Republican Jewish Coalition hosts a Republican Presidential Candidates Forum Thursday, we will no doubt hear a lot of talk about shutting our borders to suffering Syrian refugees. Meanwhile, Jewish Americans continue to believe in the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger, with the Jewish organizational world lined up in support of President Barack Obama’s pledge to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Much of the Republican rhetoric claiming that Democrats are losing Jewish voters centers not on these domestic issues but instead on Israel. There again, the Republicans have it wrong.
Putting aside the summer’s vicious rhetoric over the Iran deal — which the majority of American Jews supported, as did more than two-third of the Jewish members of the Senate and House, after careful consideration — Israel has long been a bipartisan issue, and must remain so. Using Israel as an issue to persuade Jews to vote Republican just will not work, and the attempt to turn the Jewish state into a wedge issue is a dangerous one that risks alienating both Jews and non-Jews. The Democratic Party continues to have the values that most American Jews hold dear.