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Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

The Changing Jewish Political Landscape: The 2022 Mid-Term Elections

We are seeing a significant shift especially among younger Jewish voters who are identifying as “Independent.” Among 18–24-year-old Jews, 43% identify as “independent” which represents the same number who consider themselves Democrats.  For all Jews, under 75 years of age, on average about one-third today classify themselves as “independent”.  About a fourth of Jewish voters, age 75 and over consider themselves as such.[1]

When considering their political viewpoints, younger Jews (18-24) identify as liberal 47%, moderate 34% and conservative, 19%.

A greater percentage of Jewish women identify or lean Democratic (68%), by comparison 57% of men vote for Democrats. This pattern is similar to the general voting characteristics in American society.

Despite political labels, Jewish voters, especially in “swing states” can and do play a critical role.[2]  No doubt in this fall’s campaign,  independent Jewish voters can be seen as potentially important swing voters. Often these non-partisan voters are motivated by specific issues.

The movement toward independency should not necessarily be shocking for Democratic leaders or for that matter Republican Jewish hopefuls. As the data suggests, Democrats are bleeding their base among certain key constituencies, including working class voters and Hispanics. A second factor is what some analysts are terming as political fatigue, even despair in some liberal circles in connection with the state of American politics.

Moving beyond independents, other critical factors key to understanding voter behavior include levels of education. As with the general society, better educated Jews (college graduates) identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. 65% of this cohort vote Democratic. By comparison, 60% without college degrees identify as Republicans. Forty-eight percent of Jewish adults with college degrees are liberal compared to 36% of Jewish adults without a college degree. Among US adults with a college degree, a greater percentage are moderate (38%) than liberal (32%) or conservative (30%). Among those without a college degree, a greater percentage of Americans are conservative (40%) than moderate (36%) or liberal (24%).

Whereas the majority of white non-Hispanic US adults identify as Republicans or lean Republican (Pew Research Center, 2018), this is not true of Jewish voters. As we know, the majority of white non-Hispanic Jewish adults identify as Democrats or lean Democratic (61%).

The Current Political Mindset:

Republicans are feeling the shifting political winds and have bolstered their investment in think tanks, voter strategy building and election campaign planning. One sees this most clearly in Republican controlled state legislatures and governorships.

We are also seeing among some Republicans an inching away from 45, as Republicans continue to voice their loyalty to Donald Trump but in fact are taking his GOP dollars and moving them strategically in support of candidates who are increasingly non-Trump in practice, if not in word!

Regardless, what will happen during the forthcoming mid-terms, the next two years will be critical for Democratic Party leadership. The open-ended question who will succeed Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, if they are in fact ready to depart? Whatever 2022 will bring, the leadership succession issue for the Democratic Party will emerge as core to the American political story.

What else might we expect? For left wing Democrats this may be a particularly challenging November. Polling data simply does not suggest a significant electoral swing in their direction. Within the Jewish community, one finds a growing segment of Jewish Democrats and some independents expressing significant pushback over House Progressives, especially in connection with Israel and other core Jewish considerations.

For Democrats, and more directly for Jewish Democrats, the defining question, what issues will bring voters to the polls in November, high inflation and fear of a recession or the fallout over the Supreme Court’s actions? The former speaks to a Republican victory night on November 8th, while the latter gives Democrats yet another chance to possibly hold one of the chambers of the 118th Congress.

 What Does all of this Mean for American Jewish Voters?  The Five

Defining Realities

Regardless of their political orientation, Jews vote in significant numbers, and should we see a lackluster turn out this fall among voters in general, the imprint of the Jewish vote will take on added significance.

Secondly, Jews are major political funders, and this year will prove to be no exception. Energized by the recent Supreme Court rulings, liberal Jews will be funneling their dollars into purple state campaigns, seen as “must wins” for Democrats. Conservative Jewish voters will be most certainly backing their party’s nominees in those same critical campaigns. The war amongst the Jews is clearly in play on the political stage in 2022!

Third, we can expect, as we have seen in recent elections, a representative number of Jewish candidates on the ballot both on the federal and state level. Politics remains a particular passion for Jews.

Fourth, sadly, we are likely to experience an uptake in anti-Semitism in connection with this forthcoming political season, as candidates and causes will use whatever advantage point they believe they have to move their case.

Finally, this election will continue to show the deep political splinters among Jewish voters, representing the full diversity of American politics in 2022.

[1] https://forward.com/fast-forward/465289/report-shows-younger-jews-are-less-partisan-but-democratic-support-remains/

[2] https://momentmag.com/jewish-independent-voters/

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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