The Jewish Voter in 2016
As the November presidential election nears, the question is how Jewish voters will vote. The ISIS threat and the attacks against Jewish buildings in Europe make the Jewish community more nervous than usual. There is the sour Netanyahu/Obama relationship and Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Will they continue their tendency to vote Democratic or will Trump garner a larger percentage of Jewish support?
It’s hard to categorize the Jewish vote – especially in 2016. They may be Jewish, but that doesn’t make them more likely to vote like a Jew. In the primary, they preferred Clinton to Sanders, who is Jewish. Nor will the fact that Trump’s daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren make the average Jewish voter more likely to support him.
The Importance of the Jewish Vote
Although Jews represent only 2% of the American population, they have an impact much greater than their small numbers would indicate.
First, the Jewish population is concentrated in few key states. In 2013, 70 percent of U.S. Jews were living in New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, and Pennsylvania—states whose combined 167 electoral votes make up more than half of the 270 electoral votes a presidential candidate needs to win the election.
This is critical since the US doesn’t select its president by popular vote. The American presidential general election is an indirect election. American voters in each state cast ballots for a slate of members of the U.S. Electoral College; these electors in turn directly elect the President and Vice President. Most state laws establish a winner-take-all system, wherein the ticket that wins the most votes in the state wins all of that state’s allocated electoral votes. Thus, the Jewish minority can tip the election one way or the other in those key states.
Second, Jews account for a huge share of the activist base of the Democratic Party and account for much of the money available to Democratic candidates. Obviously, a shift Jewish support even a little bit away from the Democrats, it makes the Democratic Party less competitive.
Third, Jews are more likely to vote. In New York City, they are 13% of the Democrats but 20% of the Democratic “reliable” voters; 17% of the Republicans and 24% of the “reliable” Republicans. Therefore, the impact of the Jewish vote is greater than for many other demographics.
A 2013 Pew Research Poll dispels some notions about American Jews and their political interests. Jewish voters are Democratic for a reason. They believe in the party’s liberal ideology, and identify with its core values, and that despite the effort by the Republican party to align itself with Israel, most American Jews don’t view Israel as essential to their political allegiances in the United States, and even if they did, they think Democratic policy is just fine. This is supported by the Pew Research Center poll that concluded that only about four-in-ten say that caring about Israel (43%) is essential to their Jewish identity.
So, if concern for Israel doesn’t drive the American Jewish vote, what does? The economy? According to an American Jewish Committee poll, the economy tallied almost five times the number of first-place votes as did Israel. Four percent said “Iran’s nuclear program.” Only 15 percent of American Jews ranked Israel as one of their three top voting issues.
Clearly, Trump’s solid support for Israel will not win Jewish voters as much as their fear of a sluggish economy. In fact, Republican pro-Israel advertising is not geared towards the Jewish vote as much as the Evangelical Christian vote.
The Pew survey showed that 70 percent of Jewish voters were Democrats, compared to 49 percent of the general American public. One exception, however, is Orthodox Jews. The Pew study said that 57 percent of Orthodox Jews identify or lean Republican, while 36 percent identify or lean Democrat. But Orthodox Jews currently represent 10% of the Jewish population.
The problem with predicting the future based on past results is that it doesn’t take into account new information. The effect of movements such as ISIS on Jewish political preference, hasn’t been studied yet.
However, without issues like ISIS attacks in the West, there already appears to be an uptick in Jewish support for Republicans. This growth in Jewish Republican votes might be attributed to younger Jews who don’t affiliate with a party or who register to identify as independents, although only 17 percent of Jews ages 18-29 identified as Republican in Pew’s 2013 survey. Republicans can also attract single-issue voters who vote, for instance, exclusively on Israel and Middle East foreign policy.
The Jewish Demographic Time Bomb
However, it’s critical to remember that the complexion of the American Jewish community is changing – a change that could make American Jews more Republican in future elections.
According to a study of New York Jews done four years ago, the image of Jews as liberal, affluent and well educated is wrong. Over the last decade wealthy, Ivy League graduates like those on New York’s Upper West Side have increasingly lost population share relative to Orthodox groups, like the Hasidic population in Brooklyn, where college degrees are rare and poverty rates have reached 43 percent. Now, 40 percent of Jews in the city identify themselves as Orthodox, an increase from 33 percent in 2002; 74 percent of all Jewish children in the city are Orthodox. Nearly one in four Jews qualifies as poor according to federal guidelines, an increase from one in five in 2002
Members of these Orthodox groups also have been known to be far more likely to adopt more conservative positions on matters like abortion, same sex marriage, and the Israeli approach to the Palestinians. In fact, in 2012, Republican Mitt Romney only led Obama by a 51-43 percent margin among New York Jews.
There appears to be a deep split occurring amongst the Jewish community. While the orthodox Jewish community is growing the non-orthodox community is losing much of its “Jewishness.” Among non-Orthodox Jews, there has been a weakening in observance of quintessential Jewish practices. Participation in the Jewish Passover is down: 14 percent of households never attend one, almost twice as many as a decade ago. Reform and Conservative movements each lost about 40,000 members between 2002 and 2011; nearly a third of the respondents who identified themselves as Jews said they did not ally themselves with a denomination or claimed no religion.
There are other changes in the American Jewish population. Today, the majority of American Jews have never visited Israel – the number of Jews who have visited Israel may be as low as one in five. In fact, some Israeli Jews refer to American Jews as “partial Jews.”
Conversely Jews who visit Israel and American Jews who live in Israel are more likely to vote Republican. There are an estimated 150,000 Jews living in Israel who are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections- many from swing states. And, their concerns are more likely to be a pro-Israel stance, strong foreign policy and a strong national defense. These voters are currently very frustrated with Obama and will likely go for Trump.
This could be seen in the Clinton and Trump speeches in front of AIPAC earlier this year. The positive response to Trump was so great that the president of AIPAC apologized since AIPAC is supposed to be non-partisan.
However, the typical American Jewish vote will remain elusive for Trump. The average Jewish voter today has more in common with Hillary Clinton than with Trump. It will take a major shift in their views to radically change their vote.
However, the Jewish vote may eventually swing into the Republican camp as Orthodox Jews become a greater part of the American Jewish community. Overall Jewish support for the Democratic Party is in decline: In the 2006 midterm elections, 87 percent of Jews voted for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives. In the 2014 midterm elections, 66 percent cast ballots for Democrats. That’s a 21-point drop in eight years. This trend may be accelerating in the next election, enough to tip the election in favor of Trump in some critical swing states.
And, it doesn’t require a major shift in the Jewish vote to help Trump win. For instance, Florida is home to an estimated 500,000 Jewish residents — sizable enough to tip the results in the biggest swing state in the country. Florida awards 29 electoral votes, more than 10 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.
Changing the outcome “doesn’t require a majority shift,” said Steven Abrams, a county commissioner who was Palm Beach County chairman for Newt Gingrich’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign. “The Jewish vote only needs to change by a percent or two or three in order to make a difference in the outcome of the state.”
Making Choices – The Future of the U.S.-Egyptian Relationship
By Jon B. Alterman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
August 2, 2016
A generation ago, a strong U.S.-Egyptian relationship provided an answer to many questions. How could the United States help rally Arab countries against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait? How could the United States help secure Israel? How could the United States military protect vital assets in the Middle East? And on the
Egyptian side, how could Egypt modernize its military, and who could be a strong economic partner for Egypt’s development? The answer was a strong U.S.-Egyptian
relationship. For good reason, Egypt was a cornerstone of U.S. strategy, and the United States was a cornerstone of Egyptian strategy.
No International Pariah
By Lawrence J. Haas
American Foreign Policy Council
July 26, 2016
U.S. News & World Report
Israel’s growing diplomatic, military, and economic ties across the Middle East Africa, and Asia should shatter an enduring myth: that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will make Israel an international pariah. These ties reflect not only the foresight of Israel’s leaders, the doggedness of its diplomacy and the strength of its economy, but also the rise of Iran in the region and the spread of terrorism beyond it. Consider the irony. Israel’s ties to the United States and Europe are strained over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, particularly with Washington, the Iranian nuclear deal – even though Israel is the lone nation in the turbulent Middle East that shares the West’s values of freedom and democracy. Meanwhile, Israel’s ties to regional states, African nations and Russia and China are growing due to shared military challenges or economic opportunities – even though Israel has little in common with them. Nevertheless, Israel’s growing global network is enhancing its flexibility on the world stage and reducing Washington’s leverage over Jerusalem. That’s good for Israel at a time of strained U.S.-Israeli relations, and it leaves America and Europe looking obsessed with an issue of reduced global concern.
Secret Ransom Payment Is More Evidence of the Enormous Fraud of the Iran Deal
By Fred Fleitz
Center for Security Policy
August 3, 2016
The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the United States secretly sent $400 million in cash on an unmarked cargo plane to Iran on January 17, 2016, to facilitate a swap that day of five innocent Americans held by Iran for seven Iranian criminals held by the U.S. Fourteen additional Iranians were removed from an INTERPOL wanted list as another part of this arrangement. The prisoner swap was announced on the Iran deal’s Implementation Day (January 16) — when most sanctions were lifted from Iran and it received $150 billion in sanctions relief after the IAEA certified that Tehran had complied with certain requirements of the nuclear deal. Obama officials have denied that the $400 million was a ransom payment. Instead, they say it was the first installment of an American payment to resolve a dispute over a pre-1979 arms deal with the Shah’s government.
Morocco’s New Africa Policy? The African Union, Algeria, and Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy
By Vish Sakthivel
Foreign Policy Research Institute
July 22, 2016
This past Sunday, Morocco made a surprise move by sending a delegation to the African Union (AU)—the transnational union charged with encouraging African nations’ solidarity and the politico-economic integration of the full continent. Leaving the organization over 30 years ago, it has been the only non-member nation in Africa. King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in his official request to be reinstated in a letter to the AU chairperson affirmed, “The time has come for Morocco to find its organic place within the African Union.” Ahead of this request the small North African kingdom is also attempting a measured rapprochement with its regional rival, Algeria. The results remain to be seen, and should be watched. Morocco left the AU in protest in 1984 after the supranational body recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD, as it is known by its French acronym). RASD controls part of the Western Sahara east of the disputed region’s dividing wall (the berm). Morocco has laid claim to the Western Sahara since 1975, while RASD (with Algeria’s backing) aims to end the Morocco presence (which many call an occupation) in the disputed region. Morocco would like to rejoin the AU on the condition that the RASD’s membership is suspended.
Coup Attempt Unifies Turkey — But Could Distance the West
By Ozgur Unluhisarcikli
German Marshall Fund
August 2, 2016
The international community has failed to fully grasp the sense of unity and solidarity the recent coup attempt has created among the Turkish political class and Turkish society as a whole. Not only did all parties in the parliament denounce the coup attempt, even when it appeared to be winning, but they also drew similar conclusions as to who was behind it. While opposition parties have raised legitimate concerns about rule of law and human rights, they generally have supported the measures taken by the government to eliminate this specific threat to Turkish democracy. President Erdoğan has been atypically inclusive towards the opposition parties (except the pro-Kurdish Party) and Prime Minister Yıldırım has gone out of his way to rule by consensus rather than by majority.
Turkey’s Tilt Toward Moscow
By Peter Rough
August 3, 2016
On August 9, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to St. Petersburg, where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the first time since November 2015. For the past two weeks, a steady parade of Turkish ministers have flown to Moscow to lay the groundwork — confirmation that the Turkish-Russian relationship, on ice for the past eight months, is headed for a summer thaw. But the St. Petersburg meeting is more than just another summit — it is the opening ceremony for a broader Turkish tilt toward Moscow. The bases for this Russian-Turkish rapprochement are manifold, but the primary impetus is Bashar al-Assad’s near-restoration in Syria. In the past, Assad had been the major obstacle to improved ties between Russia and Turkey. The countries’ poor relations reached a boiling point when Turkey shot down an Su-24 Russian fighter jet last November. The situation in Syria has changed dramatically since that episode, however. The Russian-Iranian offensive in support of Assad has checkmated Turkey, shutting Ankara out of northern Syria. Now, Moscow and Tehran are in the midst of an operation to restore Assad’s control over Syria’s second city of Aleppo. Even an obstinate leader like Erdogan cannot ignore the hard reality that Assad is here to stay.
U.S. Strikes Islamic State in Libya
By Ben Fishman
August 2, 2016
The Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that the United States had conducted airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Sirte, Libya. This development, together with a long-overdue agreement on oil production, represents a much-needed win for the Government of National Accord (GNA), as Libya’s interim government is known. Nevertheless, Libya still confronts deep instability. According to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook, the “precision” strikes on IS targets were conducted at the GNA’s request, consistent with the overall U.S. approach to countering the jihadist group by supporting “capable and motivated local partners.” Following considerable progress in early June by Libyan militias against IS in Sirte, they encountered stiff resistance and suffered significant casualties from snipers and improvised explosive devices when trying to advance on the central part of the city and the Ouagadougou Conference Center, formerly used by Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi to host Arab and African dignitaries. The airstrikes represent an additional U.S. step beyond the previously acknowledged provision of intelligence and tactical advice to GNA-aligned militias in the battle for Sirte.
Damascus Control Emboldens Assad Nationally
By Fabrice Balanche
August 2, 2016
The next round of Geneva peace negotiations for Syria is set to begin this month, but President Bashar al-Assad’s recently tightened grip over Damascus already has the Syrian opposition in a tough spot. Indeed, focus on the battle of Aleppo, where regime forces have also advanced recently has distracted attention from the Syrian army’s slow but sure recapture of the rebel-held outskirts of the Syrian capital.