Will Jewish Voters Play a Growing Role in Swing States?

With post-election tensions running high, it appears that the American Jewish community’s overwhelming support for the Democratic Party may be eroding. According to a New York Times/AP poll “President Donald Trump won 30.5% of the Jewish vote this year, up 6.5 points from his 24% share of the Jewish vote in 2016.  It is the highest percentage for any Republican presidential candidate since 1988.”

But shifting trends could portend even more support for Republicans in the future. Jewish migration from blue states to swing states is increasing, and is likely to continue. Consequently, there is likely to be a renewed focus on our community’s vote — and that vote is going to matter more than it does in traditional Jewish strongholds like New York, New Jersey, and California. Additionally, the ascent and growth of an anti-Israel block in the Democratic Party could erode Jewish support there; though the rise of antisemitic elements on the far-right could also play a role in the future of the Jewish vote. 

This past Passover, with New York COVID-19 cases spiking, my family and I left New York and spent a couple of months in Arizona with some family members. Today, the greater Phoenix/Scottsdale area boasts several kosher restaurants and a number of kosher supermarkets. My sister’s shul in Scottsdale, which was a storefront only 10 years ago, is now housed in a beautiful new modern building. Every month, there are prospective families visiting from Lakewood, Riverdale, Englewood, and Queens. Their membership is growing by the week and it is estimated that there are approximately 120,000 Jews of all denominations living in Arizona, most of whom are concentrated in Maricopa County (which narrowly delivered Arizona to Joe Biden — the first time a Democrat had won it since 1996).  

Arizona is not unlike many other southern states. According to a recent article published in Ami Magazine, Jewish migrants are also moving to Tampa, Florida, for example. Efforts are underway to build a development that will accommodate approximately 2,500 homes, a kosher market, and a yeshiva. The Republican Jewish Coalition spent over $5 million in Florida and it paid off for President Trump who reportedly garnered over 40% of the Jewish vote and eventually won that state. Even Ben Shapiro, the a pro-Trump and conservative commentator recently moved from California to Florida. He subsequently moved his media company to Nashville, Tennessee, a city where 25% of the Jewish population has been there for 10 years or less.   

Eric Cohen, Executive Director of the Tikvah Fund, points out in his recent piece in Mosaic that “as cultural conditions in New York, New Jersey, and California continue to become even more hostile to traditional Jewish communities, the migration might accelerate.” Orthodox Jews, unhappy with their treatment during the coronavirus pandemic, could continue to leave the area in droves. Of course, it’s impossible to know what the reaction will be in these other states as Jews continue to move therein large numbers. 

While Republican advancements with Jewish voters may be a result of shifting Jewish population centers, they are only being exacerbated by the Democrats’ inability to root out antisemitism within their own party.  In Georgia, Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler will face each other in a runoff election for a critical Senate seat. Rev. Warnock has gone on record signing his name to a letter likening conditions in the West Bank to apartheid South Africa. Although Loeffler is also coming under fire for her ties to the QAnon conspiracy movement. Incidentally, Jews in Georgia voted for Trump by a higher margin than seen in other states, handing him 50% of their votes (AP VoteCast).

Members of the Democratic left added to their ranks on November 3, with Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) winning their primaries handily and replacing moderate Democrats Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).  This is further indication that the “old guard” is being replaced by younger and more progressive personalities, some of whose policies will be antithetical to the Jewish community’s best interests — just like we’ve seen with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), among others. And just last week, Omar accused Israel of ethnic cleansing — a remark met with silence by the bulk of the Democratic Party and by the overwhelming majority of Jewish organizations.

About the Author
I am a proud mother of 3 children who attend Modern Orthodox Day Schools in NY and NJ. I live in Scarsdale, NY and I have a Masters Degree in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from George Washington University. Upon graduating, I worked as a Legislative Assistant handling foreign affairs for several members of Congress. After leaving Capitol Hill, I went on to work for AIPAC for 5 years. Today, I spend my time being active on our school's board and on various national political campaigns.
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