As America prepares for the 2024 Presidential Sweepstakes, what data will be helpful in understanding the “Jewish vote”? In 2020, on these pages, I laid out a number of political principles concerning the patterns and behaviors of Jewish voters.[1)
This is one in a series of articles prepared for the Times of Israel that provides some background and context to American Jewish political behavior in preparation for next year’s presidential campaign.
What Can We Forecast about 2024?
- We can anticipate as we have identified in the past a large Jewish voter turn-out.
- Not all Jewish votes are equal! With the probability of another close national election, those voters who reside in “purple states” will determine the outcome of the 2024 campaign.
- Jewish political organizations, high-end campaign donors, and a select number of Jewish candidates will again be playing high profile roles in next year’s election.
- In a campaign that is likely to be politically tense, there is a greater chance that anti-Semitic rhetoric will be employed.
- How significant will the Orthodox Jewish vote be in the 2024 election? First, we know that this community is growing, so it is clearly increasing its political clout. Second, where there are larger constituencies of Orthodox families, how will this play out impacting particular outcomes in highly contested Congressional Districts or even on a state level?
Studying the Jewish Vote:
So where is the Jewish vote most likely to be in play? We will look at the 20 states where Jews account for at least one percent of the overall population within that state. In some measure the Jewish turn-out in such a “swing state” as Wisconsin (1.1%) may have more of an impact on the final outcome than a “blue state” such as New York (9.1%).
State Electoral Votes Percentage of Jewish Voters
- New York 24 9.1%
- District of Columbia 3 8.2%
- New Jersey 14 6.1%
- Massachusetts 11 4.3%
- Maryland 10 3.9%
- Connecticut 7 3.3%
- California 55 3.0%
- Florida 29 3.0%
- Nevada 6 2.5%
- Illinois 20 2.3%
- Pennsylvania 20 2.3%
- Colorado 9 1.8%
- Rhode Island 4 1.8%
- Virginia 13 1.8%
- Arizona 11 1.8%
- Delaware 3 1.6%
- Ohio 18 1.3%
- Wisconsin 16 1.2%
- Michigan 10 1.1%
- Vermont. 3 1.1 %
States that are often considered “in play” in a national election include Florida (3%), Nevada (2.5%), Pennsylvania (2.3%), Arizona (1.8%), Wisconsin (1.2%) and sometimes, Michigan (1.1%). As we know Jews “vote”, this in turn accelerates the profile of these voters in such critical battle-ground states.
What Drives Jewish Voters?
Beyond the geopolitical positioning of Jewish voters, what issues motivate such voters represents a major consideration! A 2020 AJC survey of Jewish public opinion attitudes offers us some helpful insights:
- Economy 29%
- Terrorism and Security 16%
- Foreign Policy 10%
- Health Care 9%
- Energy/Climate Crisis. 6%
- Support for Israel 6%
- Immigration 6%
Understanding and contextualing these numbers may be helpful. As with all American voters, particular elections evoke particular interest in and support of different policy items. During the 2020 campaign, I had occasion to frame many of the defining characteristics of American Jewish voting behavior.
We note with American Jewish voters hold a broad range of policy interests. With the exception of identity-based Jewish voters, where their priorities are specifically focused on self-interest issues of the community, i.e., Israel, national security and terrorism, and anti-Semitism, we generally find that most American Jewish mainstream voters consider anywhere from 5-10 policy areas in connection with their voting priorities.
Data suggests that the more an individual voter is engaged with social causes and organizations outside of the Jewish community that re-enforce his/her political perspectives, the more likely this voter will reflect these policy positions as part of their voting behavior.
While we know that Jews vote in high numbers (between 72% to over 80%), but we have minimal data on non-voting Jews. The fact that some younger Jews are not permanently settled has resulted in their not voting in specific elections. Some elderly Jews may have difficulty managing a ballot or getting to their designated voting sites. Some prospective Jewish voters hold similar views to other constituencies, questioning whether their vote really makes a difference. There is growing concern among some analysts that there is a body of American voters who are experiencing “voter fatigue” and in the process are showing a higher level of disinterest as the nation’s politics becomes more divisive and challenging.
Analyzing Jewish Political Behavior:
According to data collected over the past several years, an overwhelming majority of Jews – 73 percent – describe themselves as moderate or liberal; 23 percent label themselves as conservative. By contrast, 42 percent of American Protestants and 34 percent of Catholics identify themselves as conservative.
There are a number of indicators today that may impact on future elections. For example, there is some evidence that younger Jews do not hold the same degree of loyalty to the Democratic Party and, as a result, are more likely to register as Independent or Republican. While these numbers do not indicate a definitive generational trend, it does appear that both Orthodox Jews and Jews who are from more secular backgrounds tend to vote Republican more frequently than do other Jewish constituencies, clearly for different ideological, political, and cultural reasons.
Jewish voting patterns are also distinctively different in state and local elections. In larger metropolitan areas with significant Jewish populations, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, one finds Jewish voting patterns in local and statewide campaigns driven by self-interest with respect to financial, security, and other specific public policy concerns. Similarly, the attractiveness of particular candidates may contribute to altered voting patterns. A centrist Republican who may be a candidate in local and/or state campaign is often able to attract significant Jewish support.
As we well know, voters arrive at their decision based on an array of issues and political interests; the broader question for 2024 what factors will drive this vote? From past polling Jews have expressed an array of domestic and foreign policy interests that frames the basis of Jewish political behavior. It would be an error to view “the Jewish vote” as tied to a “single-issue”. As has been noted elsewhere by this writer and others, most voters are “political loyalists” generally holding a particular affinity for one party or the other.
What May Be New for 2024?
As noted earlier, Jews come to the ballot box with a whole array of issues. For example, we know that Jews pay particular attention to the Supreme Court, and as a result, how will the Jewish vote be impacted the Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), overturning Roe v. Wade?
Additional cases handed down this term by the Roberts Court may also weigh as important motivators for Jewish voting, and among these rulings, we would note the affirmative action case (Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College); religious freedoms, gay rights vs. free speech (CREATIVE LLC ET AL. v. ELENIS ET AL); state legislatures vs. federal elections (North Carolina House of Representatives v. Harper); and race and voting maps (ALLEN, ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE, ET AL. v. MILLIGAN ET AL.).
Other issues are likely to highlight this campaign including issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), urban crime and violence, access to guns, educational policy, and immigration and the southern border.
As an older ethnic constituency, Jews rank health care and social security, along with the state of the economy, as important election indicators. For some Jewish voters, as referenced earlier, national security, foreign policy and more directly, US-Israel relations will remain a priority.
How much will the issue of age or questions associated with moral character and personal conduct impact Jewish voters in considering their selection?
What to Expect?
We are some 15 months away from the 2024 election. Beyond voting for the next President, 33 Senate seats will be in contention, along with the entire House of Representatives. Eleven governorships will also be contested, as will a number of state legislatures.
As we move closer to next year’s election, other considerations will be introduced on these pages. Among the questions one may consider in advance of this contest are these:
- What will be the key influencers that will impact Jewish voting in 2024?
- Are we likely to see any surprises next year in connection with Jewish political behavior?