Thursday, October 21, 2010
Opinion: Jewish vote veers right – at times - Tevi Troy - POLITICO.com
For decades, conservative Jews have been wondering when the traditionally Democratic Jewish voter would make the same migration as other ethnic groups and start voting Republican. At the same time, liberal Jews have been explaining the variety of historical and religious reasons why such a switch would never take place.
While this debate seems never-ending, it’s possible that both sides have been looking at the wrong metrics. The shift in the Jewish vote is already taking place — but at the state, not the national level.
Nationally, Jews are only about 2 percent of the U.S. population, but they are heavily represented in big cities and have disproportionately high voter turnout rates. They are major contributors to both parties, though Democrats get the lion’s share. Some groups within the Jewish community, like Orthodox Jews, have shifted to the GOP – 70 percent supported George W. Bush in 2004. In addition, Jewish neoconservatives have long been vocal Republicans — with voices louder than their numbers suggest. Overall, though, the Jewish vote remains strongly Democratic at the national level. The GOP share in the last two decades fluctuating between Bush’s 25 percent in 2004 and his father’s 11 percent in 1992. (See chart below.)
At the state level, however, Jews can and do vote less Democratic. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attracted 38 percent of the Jewish vote in 2009, proving that Republicans who can be competitive in the Jewish community gain an edge against Democratic opponents, who then can’t take the Jewish vote for granted.
For this reason, it is worth paying close attention to the Jewish vote in close Senate races in states with significant Jewish populations. In the complicated Pennsylvania race, for example, a Republican-turned-Democrat Jewish senator, Arlen Specter, is involuntarily leaving, and the Jewish vote is likely to help determine his successor.