Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jews still leaning Democratic 

If the 2016 presidential election were held today, Jewish voters nationwide would probably split 70-30 for the Democratic candidate, much as they did in 2012. Including the undecided respondents, 58 percent of American Jews prefer the Democrat, 18 percent the Republican, and 24 percent are not sure whether they lean one way or the other.

These results emerge from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal Survey conducted under my direction by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) between July 16 and July 20. SSRS interviewed 501 Jews by phone (almost a third of which were cellphones). Researchers weighted the sample to reflect chances of being called and socio-demographic targets drawn from the 2013 Pew Research Center Study of Jewish Americans. The margin of error is 6 percent (to see methodology description, visit jewishjournal.com/iransurvey).

Regarding presidential preference, interviewers asked, “If the 2016 presidential election were held today, do you think you are more likely to vote for the (Democratic) candidate or the (Republican) candidate [order was rotated], or are you not sure if you’re leaning one way or the other?” (See the full questionnaire at jewishjournal.com/iransurvey.)

Younger Jews are more Democratic than older Jews. The details: Those younger than 40 are more firmly in the Democratic camp (69 percent to 12 percent, with 19 percent undecided) than Jews age 65 and older (56 percent for the Democratic candidate, 24 percent for the Republican, the rest undecided).

The most highly educated are the most highly Democratic. That is to say: The Democratic-Republican gap is truly huge among Jews with a post-graduate education (76 percent versus 8 percent, Democrat versus Republican), contrasting sharply with those who have no college degree (49 percent  to 25 percent).

The most affluent are more Democratic. The Democrat-Republican presidential preference gap is higher among those earning $150,000 annually or more (61 percent Democratic, 9 percent Republican) than among the least affluent: those earning less than $50,000 per year (49 percent, 24 percent).

And family matters. As in the larger population, the unmarried without children at home are especially prone to lean Democratic (60 percent to 17 percent), as compared with married people with children at home (57 percent to 26 percent, for the Democrat and Republican respectively).
As might be expected, self-identifying Democrats almost uniformly prefer the Democratic candidate. Self-identifying Republicans express similarly favorable views of the Republican candidate. Among Jewish Independents, the Democratic candidate outpolls the Republican 32 percent to 24 percent, with 44 percent undecided.

Israel attachment is modestly correlated with Republican preference, although the Democrat continues to lead even among the more Israel-connected. The Democrat-Republican divide is 54 percent to 22 percent among those who have been to Israel. But it is somewhat wider — i.e., more Democrat-leaning — at 61 percent to 15 percent, among those who have not. Similarly, among those “very attached” emotionally to Israel, the Democratic candidate leads 51 percent to 26 percent, but the lead is wider among those only “somewhat attached”: 63 percent to 15 percent.

A more striking pattern emerges when questions about Israel shift specifically to “the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.” Among those who sympathize with Israel “a lot,” the Democratic-Republican split is 55 percent to 24 percent. But for those who say only “some,” the split is 64 percent to 5 percent. Similarly, among the few Jews who most sympathize with the Palestinians, none voiced support for the Republican candidate. Among the many who said “not at all” to the question on sympathizing with the Palestinians, the Democratic-Republican divide was 47 percent to 27 percent.

Certainly, much can happen to change the overall results between now and Election Day 2016. But the findings do point to the persistence of Jewish voting patterns heading into the next presidential election. The current level of support for the theoretical Democratic candidate over the theoretical Republican candidate matches that recorded in recent elections. Moreover, the socio-demographic variations mirror those in earlier elections and the American population generally.

Of particular interest is the pattern of weaker support for the Democrat among those more closely attached to Israel. They are consistent with previously noted differences among Orthodox,

Conservative, Reform and nondenominational Jews, in that the more religious and more traditional evince higher attachment to Israel and more support for its policies (the two are not the same). And the results seen in this most recent survey of American Jews are consistent with an emerging trend that bears close watching: The increasing political polarization of Israel support, be it among political elites, the American public or among American Jews.

Most broadly, the political polarization in the United States, marked by greater partisan divides on more numerous and potentially incendiary issues, is also coming to characterize views related to Israel. Post-baby boomers may not remember that, at one time, left-leaning Americans held more favorable views of Israel than their conservative and Republican counterparts. Today, poll after poll shows Israel doing better among conservatives, Republicans and the religiously committed. As goes America, so — in some measure — goes American Jewry. An Israel that is more popular on the right and less popular on the left is an Israel that is especially appealing to Jewish conservatives,

Republicans and traditionalists, but one that is less attractive to Jewish liberals, Democrats and less religiously engaged. The end-point of these processes is still murky and undecided. But the current trends are far clearer to all who pay attention.


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