Jewish voting trends 2020: Will there be a shift?

By Leroy Cleveland - November 2, 2020

American Jews comprise about 2.2 % of the U.S. population but with a voter participation rate of between 80 to 90 percent, the ‘Tribe’ will likely comprise 3 percent of the American voting electorate in 2020.

And while three percent doesn’t seem like a lot, it can be critical in close races because Jews tend to overwhelmingly support Democrats. In fact, since 1968 American Jews have supported Democratic presidential candidates 71 percent of the time versus 25 percent for Republicans’ and 4 percent for third party candidates or write-ins.

In close races, the Jewish vote can be a deciding factor.

Take Florida, for example. In a state where presidential, gubernatorial and senate races are often decided by 2 percentage points or fewer, Jews represent 3 percent of the population and close to 4 percent of the Sunshine State’s voting electorate.

And Jews comprise nearly 3 percent of Pennsylvania’s voting electorate in yet another purple state that has no strong allegiance to either party in presidential, senate and gubernatorial races.

What can we expect Tuesday?

In the 2016 U.S. Presidential race, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received only 71 percent of the Jewish vote compared to 24 percent for her rival, Donald Trump.

But in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008, the Democratic nominee received 80, 78, 79, 76 and 78 percent of the Jewish vote, respectively (Source: JewishVirtualLibrary.org)

Prediction
On November 3, look for Democratic candidates, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, to rise to 1990s levels. As a result, expect Democratic candidates to garner between 76 to 80 percent of the Jewish vote.

Why the slight uptick in Democratic support?

Since the 1930s the Democratic Party has been more pro-civil rights and inclusive than the GOP. And those things are of the utmost importance to Jews who are no strangers to discrimination and mistreatment the past 2,000 years.

So, aside from President Trump’s handling of Covid-19, his unsympathetic response to immigrant children being torn away from their parents and his sewing of discord during recent racial unrest, a lot of Jews are incensed by the rise in hate crimes since he took office and the president’s reluctant repudiation of white supremacists and anti-Semitic militia groups.

“There are fine people on both sides,” said Trump, following the violent Unite the Right event in August 2017 where white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us” among other racist slogans.

Trump’s supporters initially shrugged off his comments as a meaningless form of hyperbole.

‘Trump will be Trump.’

But it was no laughing matter on October 27, 2018 when a white nationalist opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing eleven people and wounding six. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.


And to no one’s surprise the president, on a September 2020 call with lawmakers, reportedly suggested that Jews were unpatriotic and disloyal, repeating the claims of anti-Semitics.

Jews “are only in it for themselves” and “stick together,” Trump allegedly said in front of officials in his administration, according to a report from The Washington Post.

.. It’s that kind of rhetoric that ignites the violence we witnessed in Pittsburgh and perpetuates divisiveness. So yes, the president’s rhetoric counts.

The Democratic Party has long been a home to the Jewish people due to the its strict stance against anti-Semitism and racial and religious discrimination, and support for Israel. Moreover, some Jews have felt threatened by right-wing, GOP-supporting White Evangelicals who, despite their support for pro-Israel causes, have been lukewarm in recent decades on issues relating to civil rights and other liberal concepts that have been traditionally important to American Jews.

But, nearly 1 in 5 Jews will enthusiastically support Trump and the GOP this year

The Jews who support will Trump and the Republicans on Tuesday will do so with great fervent and are usually outspoken.

Why?

They place tremendous emphasis on U.S. policy towards Israel and, like White Evangelicals, are either less focused on civil rights and discrimination or will downplay to what extent those issues need to be addressed domestically.

Trump, who has developed a good relationship with Israel’s prime minister and the people of Israel, moved the American embassy to Jerusalem against the advice of the entire foreign policy establishment and has negotiated pro-Israeli agreements with other Mideast nations. Also, Trump has also eliminated ISIS, taken a hardline stance against Iran, Israel’s biggest enemy, and implemented other measures to promote the welfare of the Jewish state.

If you’re an Israeli, or an American Jew who strongly favors a staunch pro-Israeli Middle East foreign policy stance, Trump is a fine ally.

In a Pew Research survey of 33 nations conducted among 37,000 people between May and October 2019, Trump was internationally very unpopular but well-liked in Israel. In fact, a whopping 71 percent of Israelis expressed confidence in President Trump, who has been a good friend to them. In contrast, only 13, 18, 20, 21 and 25 percent of those polled in Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and Greece, respectively, believed in the president’s ability to do the right thing.

Back to Jewish Americans…

Just as U.S. Blacks are more concerned with civil rights here than American foreign policy in Africa, many U.S. Jews are more interested in civil liberties and prosperity stateside than an aggressive pro-Israel foreign policy agenda and an unwavering commitment to Israeli hardliners.

Trump has been a great supporter of Israel but has squandered opportunities to lure Jews in the United States to the GOP.

If Biden and other Democratic candidates can garner nearly 80 percent of the Jewish vote, particularly in Florida and Pennsylvania, the implications could be huge on November 3.

Tags: Jewish, politics, polls/stats/facts, research, U.S. Presidential Race 2020