I guess it’s time to talk once again about the Jews and American politics. 2020 is not far off and presidential politics are on everyone’s minds — pollsters and organizations included. The Jewish Electorate Institute published its findings on how the Jewish electorate views the 2020 elections. These results are based on an online survey among 1,000 Jewish voters nationally. The margin of error is +/-3.2 percentage points.
So, what do we learn from this survey?
1. American Jews feel threatened. “Nearly three-quarters (73%) say Jews in the United States are less secure compared to two years ago.”
This number is quite dramatic. Whether the political response of most Jews to this sentiment is the proper response is a different matter: “The largest bloc (43%) say they are looking to elect a candidate who shares their values, and 39% say they want to work to defeat President [Donald] Trump in 2020.”
So, the Jews feel threatened, and believe that defeating Trump is the way to improve their situation. Only time will tell if their assessment of the situation and their proposed remedy make sense.
2. Jewish activists and leaders ought to note that only few Jews consider intensified Jewish activity to be the best response to anti-Semitism. Only 4% believe that becoming more active in a synagogue is one of the best ways to “improve the security of Jews,” only 12% prescribe “Jewish social action.” In other words, their response to anti-Semitism is political, not communal.
3. Combative Israelis ought to note that only 12% of US Jews believe that adding “armed security” is going to improve their security. If you need more proof that Israeli Jews and American Jews live on different planets, there is it.
4. When a Jew feel threatened and believes that the president is the main cause of the threat, it is no wonder that he does not approve of the job the president is doing. Indeed, President Trump’s job approval rating among Jews is low.
But now, look at how similar the following numbers seem: 73% of Jews feel more threatened; 71% disapprove of Trump’s handling of his job; 71% disapprove of Trump’s handling of anti-Semitism; 67% intend not to vote for Trump in 2020; 65% are Democrats. Is this a response to anti-Semitism or merely politics-as-usual with a new and possibly effective narrative to be used against the president?
Similarly: The number of Jews that say they are Republicans: 25%. The number of Jews intending to vote for Trump: 25%. The number of Jews concerned about “Democrats tolerating anti-Semitism in their own ranks:” 27%.
The mixing of anti-Semitism concerns and charges and political tendencies continues.
5. Here is one hint as you search for answers: While Orthodox Jews are exposed to anti-Semitism no less, and possibly more than other Jews (because they are easier to identify in a crowd), their political response to the new circumstances is very different. The most visible manifestation of this is the fact that most Orthodox Jews (57%) approve of President Trump. (by the way, the sample for this survey included a relatively small number of Orthodox Jews: 7%).
6. The new report says, “Domestic issues dominate the policy priorities of the Jewish community as they determine which candidate to support in 2020.”That is to say, Jews are like most other Americans. It’s not about “the Benjamins,” nor about the “allegiance” with Israel. It’s about America’s future, and the future of Jews in America.
Still, it is not easy for an Israeli to accept that “a candidate’s stance on Israel is of relatively low importance to Jewish voters as they determine which candidate to support in the 2020 election.” And one has to wonder: Is Israel so low on the agenda because it no longer matters to Jewish Americans? Or maybe it is low because the Jews in some unconscious way caved to the intimidation of “dual loyalty” smear perpetrators. That is, they prefer not to tell pollsters that Israel does matter.
7. Of the two options — Israel doesn’t matter, or intimidation works —I’m not even sure which is worse.
8. On the other hand, consider these facts. Sixty-five percent of Jews say that “whether the candidate supports Israel” is “one of the most important” or “very important” for them as they decide “for whom you will vote.” That’s two thirds of all Jews. And if we add those who say “somewhat important” we get to 92%. So, it’s not as if the Jews stopped saying Israel is important. The only thing that happened is that they also say, in even greater numbers, that other issues matter to them.
Looking at the overall number makes one wonder about the methodology of the question. The Jews deem important protecting Medicare and Social Security (97%); combating anti-Semitism (96%); making quality affordable healthcare available to every American (95%); enacting gun safety laws (93%); combating the influence of white supremacists and the far right (92%); combating terrorism (97%); and the list goes on and on proving that Jewish voters want everything. They want jobs and security, they want fair taxes and public education, and they also want support for Israel. That supporting Israel gets a slightly lesser ranking than gun control could signal something, but could also be an insignificant result.
I recommend that next year the Institute make the question one of priorities: force the interviewees to choose “support” or “guns;” to say what they want more, “support” or “fair taxes.” Only then will we have a clear picture of Israel’s importance to the voters.
9. In the same vein, the only issue where majority of US Jews approve of the president’s job is in US-Israel relations (55%). This signals appreciation. This signals that Jewish voters attribute importance to this item.