GOP Continues Futile Effort to Woo Jewish Vote

I've done quite a bit of research and writing on the Jewish vote in America in the past few years, both here on MyDD and for academic purposes. The one underlying theme of this research is that American Jews, who have voted for every Democratic presidential nominee in the last 70-plus years and who backed Democratic congressional candidates by about a 7-to-1 margin in 2006, aren't soon going to abandon the Democratic coaltion -- regardless of the entreaties of the Republicans. Yet that hasn't stopped Republican candidates and leaders from trying to court this Democratic constituency. Take a look, for instance, at this article from Sam Stein in The Politico:

In April Mitt Romney delivered a noteworthy but largely ignored campaign speech in midtown Manhattan.

Instead of addressing a group of Republican activists or high-end fundraisers, the presidential hopeful spoke to approximately 570 Jewish students, alumni and teachers at the graduation dinner for Yeshiva University's Sy Syms School of Business.

Romney emphasized his support for Israel. He accidentally, though to hoots and applause, called ex-President Jimmy Carter -- a critic of Israel's policies toward Palestinians -- "Jimmy Kidder." He even tried his hand at Yiddish.

"It takes chutzpah, I believe, to buy a company from somebody else," Romney said of his background in business as the sound of clanging silverware filled the room.

One might note that Orthodox Jews are more likely than others of the faith to vote Republican, which is probably true (though there isn't a whole lot of data to support this contention). As such, Romney's play for this group might have quite the potential for upside, right? Perhaps not. Back in February Ryan Grim reported, also for The Politico, that Romney was getting hit for having vetoed funding for kosher meals for Jewish Medicaid recipients while Governor of Massachusetts. Such a position certainly would not endear him to the Orthodox community, even if he was willing to deign one of the sect's places of higher learning recently.

But even getting beyond some of the admittedly less salient issues Jewish voters might have with one Republican presidential candidate, who may or may not receive his party's nomination next year, the fact still remains that American Jews aren't going to leave the Democratic coalition any time soon. It's just not going to happen, regardless of Republicans' positions on Israel. Back in October, for instance, a new survey showed that the gap between Democratic and Republican registration among American Jews was growing, and more recent polling has shown that American Jews, along with African-Americans, are about the most liberal and most allied with the Democratic Party on issues of any ethnic, racial or religious group.

I certainly don't begrudge Romney -- or other Republicans, for that matter -- trying to reach out to Jewish voters. I might correct reporters who swallow GOP spin about Republican outreach to American Jews, but I won't attack Republicans for their futile efforts. I would, however, like to end this post with a quick anecdote that I think ties in with what I have been writing here.

This month I attended an event honoring the reopening of the Jewish Community Center here in Portland. Some of the biggest names in the Jewish community were in attendence, a number of whom are quite wealthy and often back Republican candidates because of their position on Israel. Our Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is Jewish, delivered a speech and was greeted by strong applause. A letter from our Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, who is not Jewish, was read and was greeted by strong applause. But when a letter from our Republican Senator Gordon Smith, who is also not Jewish, was read not a single person in the audience clapped, as best I could tell.

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More Evidence Blacks, Jews Won't Soon Jump Ship from Democratic Party

During the lead up to both the 2004 election and the 2006 midterms, I spent a great deal of time trying to dispel the notion that American Jews were on the verge of renouncing their historic ties with the Democratic Party after having voted Democratic in every presidential election dating back to 1928. African-Americans were similarly said to be moving away from the Democratic Party to the GOP ahead of the 2004 election, and to this end in 2005, RNC chairman Ken Mehlman apologized for his party's "Southern strategy" in the hopes of bringing more African-Americans into his party.

Of course non of the poppycock about Jews and African-Americans switching their allegiances from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party was proved to be founded in reality. According to exit polling from 2004, John Kerry received about 88 percent of the African-American vote and 74 percent of the Jewish vote (the latter figure being estimated to be low by The Solomon Project [.pdf]). Likewise, exit polling from 2006 showed that 89 percent of African-Americans voted for Democratic House candidates nationwide while 87 percent of Jews did so. And new polling indicates that on the issue of greatest importance to the American people today -- Iraq -- African-Americans and American Jews are the most strongly opposed to the politics and policies advanced by this current Republican administration as it relates to Iraq. Gallup has the details.

An analysis of Gallup Poll data collected since the beginning of 2005 finds that among the major religious groups in the United States, Jewish Americans are the most strongly opposed to the Iraq war. Catholics and Protestants are more or less divided in their views on the war, while Mormons are the most likely to favor it. Those with no religious affiliation also oppose the war, but not to the same extent that Jewish people do. The greater opposition to the war is not simply a result of high Democratic identification among U.S. Jews, as Jews of all political persuasions are more likely to oppose the war than non-Jews who share the same political leanings.

For this analysis, Gallup combined 13 surveys from the last two-plus years that measured both support for the Iraq war (using Gallup's "mistake for the U.S. to send troops to Iraq" question) and respondent religious affiliation, for a combined sample of more than 12,000 interviews. Across the time period these 13 surveys covered, an average of 52% of Americans opposed the war by saying the United States made a mistake to invade Iraq, and 46% favored the war by saying it did not make a mistake.

Looking at the specific polling data, by a 77 percent to 21 percent margin, Jews state that they believe that going to war with Iraq was a mistake; Black Protestants say the same thing by a 78 percent to 18 percent margin. Both of these margins are significantly larger than the 52 percent to 46 percent spread among all Americans. Givent he fact that Iraq is THE cleavage within the electorate today -- polling cited here last month showed a 98 percent correlation between views on Iraq and of President Bush -- it's fairly safe to say that the data on the views towards Iraq held by African-Americans and Jews do not augur well for Republican attempts to break these groups away from the Democratic Party any time soon.

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Jewish Voters, Latinos Boost Support for Dems in a BIG Way

JTA has put out the following release:

Jews voted for Democrats in their highest numbers in 14 years, an exit poll showed.
Democrats garnered 87 percent of Jewish votes, the CNN exit poll by Edison Media Research said, while Republicans earned 10 percent.

That was opposed to 55 percent of all respondents who voted Democrat and 44 who voted Republican. About 200 of the 10,207 respondents were Jewish.

Jews led all religions in voting for Democrats.

Jewish voters were not the only group to significantly boost their support for Democrats yesterday. According to national exit polling on the House, Latino voters supported Democratic congressional candidates by 16 percent more than they did John Kerry in 2004. Those without a high school diploma upped their support by 15 points over the past two years (from 53 percent to 69 percent). In both big cities and rural areas around the country, voters supported Democratic candidates by 8 points more than they backed Kerry. Across the board, Democrats made big gains yesterday as Americans of almost every political stripe and demographic background voted Democratic more than they had in 2004 -- and in fact any recent election. So not only was this a deep victory for the Democratic Party and Democratic ideals, it was also a very broad victory, perhaps one that even portends greater or more permanent shifts in the electorate to come.

Update (Chris): Check out the full the national House exit poll online. Fascinating stuff.

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Democratic Registration Edge Among Jewish Voters Grows 9 Points

If I've said it onceI'vesaiditathousandtimes: Jewish voters are not moving to the Republican Party en masse. In fact, the latest polling indicates that American Jews are moving even closer to the Democratic Party, not away from it, according to a survey from the American Jewish Committee. David Goldenberg has the details over at the NJDC blog.

Earlier today, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) released its 2006 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion showing that the number of Jewish voters identifying themselves as Democrats has increased from 48 percent to 54 percent since the last mid-term election in 2002.  At the same time, the number of Jewish voters identifying themselves as Republicans has decreased from 18 percent in 2002 to 15 percent in 2006.

"These numbers reaffirm what we have been saying for so long.  Jewish voters just don't feel comfortable with the Republican Party," said NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman.  "Most recently, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) spent a million dollars in a 'devoid of truth' campaign to divide the Jewish community and convince Jewish voters to switch their party affiliation.  All they have to show for it is a three percent decrease in the number of Jews who consider themselves to be Republicans and a six percent increase in the number of Jews who are now Democrats.  If this is what you get with $1 million in RJC ad buys, I hope that they spend $2 million in 2008."

The AJC survey also shows that the number of Jewish voters who identify themselves as liberal has increased from 37 percent in 2002 to 42 percent in 2006.  In contrast, the number of Jewish voters who identify themselves as conservative has decreased from 29 percent to 25 percent during the same time period.

No major surprises here, though claims that Jewish voters would leave the Democratic Party as a result of Joe Lieberman's defeat in the party's Senate primary in Connecticut in August were hasty, at the least, and more likely wholly without merit.

As long as the Democratic Party continues to fight for progressive issues like civil rights, civil liberties, education, the environment, etc., it's just not going to be the case that Jewish voters are going to leave the party -- regardless of the posturing of the Bush administration on terrorism and Israel.

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An Actually Intelligent Look at Republicans and Jewish Voters

For quite some time -- really, the last three decades -- Republicans have been telling us that Jewish voters were on the verge of ending their historic support for the Democratic Party. In the 1980s, the claim went that Jews would flock to the GOP because of Ronald Reagan's strength and Jimmy Carter's weakness. In the '90s, Bill Clinton's peccadilloes were supposed to have offended Jewish voters. This decade, George W. Bush's resolve and support for Israel were going to have a majority of Jews voting Republican... right?

Well, it didn't turn out that way in 2004 and it isn't likely to this year either. The Hill's Jonathan E. Kaplan takes a look at the dissonance between Republican rhetoric on the Jewish vote and reality and pens this article:

Republicans have boasted in recent years that Jewish Americans, who traditionally vote for and contribute money to Democrats, are supporting the GOP in greater numbers both financially and at the polls.

But the Republican Party has made little if any headway recruiting Jewish candidates to run for office under the party's banner.

There are 20 Jewish Democratic challengers running for House and Senate seats this fall but only two Jewish Republican challengers, according to data compiled by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).

[...]

The lack of Jewish Republican candidates may suggest that the party's strong stance in support of Israel, particularly since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, may not have been as effective as the hierarchy hoped.

Kaplan is completely correct in his assessment of Republicans and Jewish voters. As long as Republican candidates pledge fealty to the extreme Christian right, as long as Republicans battle to strip women of their right to choice, as long as Republican politicians gut social welfare programs, and as long as leading Republicans appear to be disgusted when asked if they are of Jewish ancestry, Jewish voters just are not going to move en masse to the GOP. And though the Republicans might be able to point to a Ken Mehlman here and an Eric Cantor there, fact remains that most imporant political leaders within the Jewish community feel much more at home, and will likely continue to, in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

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