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American Jews aren’t swinging Right

American sympathy for Israel is not turning into a Republican surge. Credit: Getty

October 20, 2023 - 4:00pm

Despite sections of the American Left coddling Hamas and criticising Israel in the wake of the former’s atrocities against Israeli civilians, most American Jews do not appear likely to follow co-religionists such as Jared Kushner or Steven Miller into the Republican camp.

In Britain, Jewish Labour MPs outnumbered Jewish Conservative MPs 20 to one between 1945 and the 1970s. Yet by 1983, under Margaret Thatcher, there were more Jewish Conservative MPs than Labour MPs with the same religious beliefs. Today, among Jewish MPs, there are two Tories for each Labour equivalent. Jews are the strongest Tory religious demographic, with the Jewish Chronicle uncovering a 69-22 Tory advantage over Labour in 2015 and a 77-13 margin in 2019. In Canada, too, Jews lean more towards the Conservative Party than the rest of the Canadian population, with the strong pro-Israel stance of former prime minister Stephen Harper deemed part of the explanation.

While Jews elsewhere have moved to the Right, the US remains an outlier. Since the 1970s, American Jews have broken approximately 70-30 in favour of the Democrats, with fluctuation around that average. On the other hand, white Catholics, who leaned Democratic by a similar margin between 1850 and 1970, now incline two to one in favour of the GOP.

Might Hamas’s incursion into Israel and the response among portions of the American Left change their minds?

In order to find out, I conducted a small survey experiment with 140 Jewish American respondents recruited on Prolific, an online survey platform. Half the sample read a short article which mentioned that “Liberals and Democrats are shifting toward sympathy with the Palestinians and away from Israel. In 2014, Democrats were almost 40 points more likely to support Israel than the Palestinians. By 2023, they were 11 points more pro-Palestinian.”

In addition, I recounted a number of the stories coming out of American campuses. 

“The attacks represent ‘a historic win for the Palestinian resistance’, said the National Students for Justice in Palestine, which counts more than 200 campus affiliates across North America. ‘This is what it means to Free Palestine: not just slogans and rallies, but armed confrontation with the oppressors.’ […] Separately, a group of about 35 student organisations at Harvard University issued their own petition blaming Israel for the violence and Harvard for enabling it “through its investment in companies operating in illegal settlements”.

The other half of the sample read nothing before answering questions.

Reading the passage above had no significant impact on sympathy for Israel. Nearly seven in 10 American Jews in the survey took Israel’s side, with only 8% sympathising more with the Palestinians, and 21% with both. 

Those who read the paragraph seemed to shift against the Right, in a phenomenon political psychologists term “reactance”. Notably, the shift occurred only among those who support Israel over the Palestinians. That is, pro-Israel Jews who read the above passage leaned 81-13 Democratic whereas pro-Israel Jews who did not read it tilted just 56-23 Democratic. The takeaway here is that events in the Middle East, and the changing attitudes of Democrats toward Israel, are unlikely to produce the kind of shifts in Jewish opinion found in the somewhat less politically partisan contexts of Britain, Canada and France.

Longer term, American Jews are likely to shift toward the GOP the old-fashioned way: through the considerably higher birth rates of ultra-Orthodox Jews and the greater propensity of liberal Jews to marry gentiles. The ultra-Orthodox backed Trump overwhelmingly in 2016 and 2020. As the map of 2020 voting in New York shows, relatively Hasidic Williamsburg, Borough Park and Crown Heights (circled below) stick out as islands of Trump red in a strongly blue city.

Since the ultra-Orthodox, with four times the birth rate of secular Jews, are projected to be a majority of observant American Jews by 2050, and the modern Orthodox are also more Republican than other Jews, the age profile of Jewish voters looks very different from that of other white groups. Among Jews, the large-scale CCES survey shows just a 20-point Democratic advantage among the 18-25s compared to a 40-point Democratic lean among older Jews. For other white Americans, by contrast, the young are considerably more Democratic than the old.

American Jews will become Republican one birth and one funeral at a time, rather than because of high-profile political events that preoccupy the commentariat.


Eric Kaufmann is Professor of Politics at the University of Buckingham and author of Taboo: How Making Race Sacred Led to a Cultural Revolution (Forum Press, 4 July).

epkaufm

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago

Frankly, I’m amazed any Jews stick with the Democrats, given the number of race-baiters with a long association with the party who are able to continue saying the most outrageously anti-semitic things, for the most part without comment – let alone consequence.
Until Kanye West’s recent shot at the title, the “Reverend” Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan had spent decades as the most obvious and vicious anti-semites in American public life, and yet both are still venerated and schmoozed by senior Democrat politicians.
Kanye West was, quite rightly, vilified for his disgusting comments. So why do different rules apply to those on the left?
Ilhan Omar, Maxine Waters and Rashida Tlaib are all happy to be seen with Farrakhan – even Obama seemed unconcerned to rub shoulders with a man who has described Judaism as a “Gutter Religion” and talked of “Satanic Jews”.
Sharpton, even now, is feted within Democrat circles – he visted the White House almost 80 times during Obama’s tenure, and Biden recently referred to him as his “good pal”. Both presidents and a compliant media seemingly unconcerned by Sharpton’s 40 history of virulent anti-semitism.
Kamala Harris recently attended Sharpton’s birthday and agreed to be interviewed by him – on his own show. MSNBC, an organisation that prides itself on being the wokest network in US Media, employs a man who was the subject of a House resolution “Condemning the racist and anti-Semitic views of the Reverend Al Sharpton.”
Here’s a sample from that resolution:
– Whereas the Reverend Al Sharpton has referred to members of the Jewish faith as ‘‘bloodsucking Jews’’, and ‘‘Jew b@st@rds’’;
– Whereas the Reverend Al Sharpton’s vicious verbal anti-Semitic attacks directed at members of the Jewish faith, and in particular, a Jewish landlord, arising from a simple landlord-tenant dispute with a black tenant, incited widespread violence, riots, and the murder of five innocent people;
– Whereas the Reverend Al Sharpton’s fierce demagoguery incited violence, riots, and murder in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, following the accidental death of a black pedestrian child hit by the motorcade of Orthodox Rabbi Menachem Schneerson;
– Whereas the Reverend Al Sharpton has insulted members of the Jewish faith by challenging Jews to violence and stating “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”
How is that possible?
I would suggest it is the result of the increasingly polarised US media. People choose a political ‘side’ and the media channels that go along with that party, whose messages simply reinforce that partisan support at every step.
Just to underline the point, compare and contrast the media’s terrifying complacency towards anti-Semitism within the Democrat fold with their obsessive attempts to link Trump with white suprematism, anti-semitism and every other form of racism based on little more than their antipathy towards him, personally.
Before the republican nomination for the 2016 election, David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the KKK, was asked who he supported. He said that, of all the candidates declared, he would support Donald Trump.
Trump had never met Duke, disavowed his endorsement and disavowed his organisation. Yet the media were insistent that the very fact that Duke had said he wanted to see Trump in the White House was prima facie evidence of Trump’s anti-semitism and white supremacy. A quick Google search of both men’s names and you will find hundreds of press articles that link the two men, even though there is not the slightest connection between them, beyond Duke saying he wanted to see Trump as President.
Most people who only read or watch liberal media sources would still believe their close connection to this day.
Make the claim that the Democrats are historically the party of slavery, racism and anti-Semitism and most democrat supporters will simply not believe you. However much it is the truth. The Democrat Party always seems to claim the moral high ground in all race debates in the US, despite a long history that should shame them.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

When a community is brought up in the shadows of a terrible persecution, apparently inspired by a form of nationalism, then it will naturally have difficulty in realising that the attack on nationalism might have gone too far. Not only will such a community fear for its safety, if ever the nationalist genie is released from the bottle; it will also recoil from the possible moral turpitude of joining in with such a force, with the associated risk of persecuting others – especially if an even deeper element of its inheritance is a pronouncedly moral attitude to life.
That said, it is notable that many of the voices leading the charge most effectively against the inverted nationalism of our day are indeed members of the Jewish community – Konstantin Kissin, Melanie Phillips, Ben Shapiro and so on. I suggest, then, that the reason for the phenomenon noted by Professor Kaufman in this essay is a simple matter of age, for like the rest of the western, “liberal” world, the community in question is aging and perhaps beyond allowing new events to challenge old convictions.
And this, perhaps, is the chime which sounds most ominously of all, for the future of our entire civilisation; because many of us in the contemporary west – Jewish or not – are old or aging and will find it next to impossible to address the terrible possibilities which now lie in wait for us.

Last edited 8 months ago by Simon Denis
Terry M
Terry M
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Since the 1970s, American Jews have broken approximately 70-30 in favour of the Democrats, with fluctuation around that average. On the other hand, white Catholics, who leaned Democratic by a similar margin between 1850 and 1970, now incline two to one in favour of the GOP.
Maybe Catholics are just more open-minded? Or is abortion driving them towards the GOP?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

This is an excellent overview of the antisemitic characters in the American Democrat Party. Having married a reform Jew (liberal) and raised my daughters to be Jewish, I have observed two things. My husband who was a Democrat in his youth as was I, has since become an Independent. He abhors what the Democrat Party has become but he hasn’t quite bought into the Republican Party even though he agrees with many of its views. My daughter have been voting Democrat, I think primarily because it is ‘fashionable’ for the young to do so. They are intelligent girls, but I think haven’t given much thought about the matter and don’t want to seem ‘different’ from their friends. My oldest daughter who married and just had a baby seems to be seeing the Democrat Party for what it as, ie I think she’s realizing she’s might not want to be in that camp. She’s also more religiously observant than the other daughter. Raised a Massachusetts Democrat, I switched parties in 2008 – it was an epiphany- I don’t think I was ever a Democrat, I was just indoctrinated in the party when everyone around me was a believer but as soon as I moved away and met other people, it was clear to me I did not believe in a party than slices and diced the population and plays one ethnic group off the other to get traction. And as of late, that people like Adam Schiff out and out lies about just everything, the totally corrupt Clintons, Hillary launching her false Steele Dossier putting the country on a two year goose chase, Biden’s very corrupt firing of Ukraine’s prosecutor
etc, etc
.the Democrats are just not principled or truthful, and display a deep vein of anti-semitism especially in its black constituency who are getting a pass, by virtue-signaling, deluded Jews who vote Democrat.

Last edited 8 months ago by Cathy Carron
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago

Americans, Jewish or otherwise, don’t vote based on foreign policy and never have. Foreign policy is consistently ranked near the bottom in terms of voter issues. Furthermore, despite the very loud and visible nature of some of the pro-Palestine demonstrations and headline grabbing twitter comments, the actual political support for the Palestinian cause is vanishingly small outside of ultraliberal college campuses. It’s mostly young people being contrarian, like how a whole generation put up those Che Guevera prints without the remotest idea what they were endorsing.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

This is different. My take right now, with a Jewish fiance who is a traditional liberal, relations who are Jewish, what is spinning them up is less about Israel per se, though that has them upset, but about the wild levels of antisemitism on display IN the US, particularly from the progressive left.

My fiance is afraid. She is afraid for herself and for her daughter on the University of Michigan campus and her daughter who attends a VERY progressive HS in Northern VA.

My buddy Aaron, a lawyer in DC, is also shocked by the level of antisemitism he is seeing from the progressive left and the tolerance for it within the democrat party.

This is not a foreign relations thing, this is a personal safety thing.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Daniel,
I’m entirely with you. I grew up learning about the horrors of the holocaust and one thing I was absolutely sure of was that when Europeans said “never again” that it was unthinkable that such callous barbarity would never be seen again – at least in Europe.
To see that last weekend – in BERLIN of all places – Stars of David being daubed on the front doors of Jewish households just chilled me to the bone.
None of my cosy assumptions seem justifiable anymore.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Yes, but by whom have these appalling graffiti been daubed? By the people whom Henry Kissinger recently suggested should never have been allowed – so suddenly and in such numbers – into Europe in the first place. The Europeans, in so far as they needed to learn a lesson (one should never forget the role of coercion in the terrible events of 39 – 45) have learnt it; it is their new neighbours who have not.

Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine Kelley
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Yes. Enoch Powell was right all along- except he thought it might be white people attacking ethnic minorities: quite ironic really!

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Every dorm room that didn’t sport a Che poster sported a poster of Farrah Fawcett. It was all about sex appeal and nothing deeper than that. Today, it might all be about masking—after the “terrors” of the last few years, we see all these poor masked Palestinians and want to cuddle with them? One thing we know it is not about is history or reality, at least this far removed from the fighting.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
8 months ago

I’m a big fan of the Jewish American paleoconservative intellectual Paul Gottfried. I’ve heard him often say about many American Jews that regardless of the actual anti-Semites crazies in the democratic coalition, they stick democrat because they believe quite sincerely, despite thin evidence, that the largely white population that make up Republican voters are, in their hearts of hearts, national socialists who would inaugurate the 4th Reich if given the chance. So despite all the actual real anti-Semitism from other minority groups and the far left that also vote democrat they stick with the blue team. Gottfried says to no amount of philosemitism and pro-Israel sentiment from Republicans will largely change this. The exception is as said above (and also noted by Gottfried) is amongst the Orthodox Jew communities.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

Riddle me this, it hits close to home

Who opens your borders but closes their own

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

That’s easy. The elites living in gated communities using illegal immigrants to mow their lawns, clean their houses, and babysit the spoiled children whose incompetent leadership will be foisted upon future generations by virtue of generational wealth.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

All I know is this….

My fiance is a Palestinian Jew. Her two daughters, one at the University of Michigan and one a junior in HS in DC, are also Jewish, as is there father.

All three have been very staunch democrat/left leaning women. All three are terrified by what they have seen on college campuses and in the news and by what they see as a growing acceptance on the left and in democrat circles of antisemitism. All three are expressing concern about the democratic party.

Now, I am a conservative. I’ve been telling them for at least three years that they should not be brushing off the antisemitism on the left nor its impact on the democrat party, that it is real and it is growing in size and in intensity. NOW, they believe me.

My good friend Aaron, is a 43 yr old lawyer with a wife and two young kids. He is Jewish and he has been a traditional democrat all his adult life. He is now questioning what happened to his party.

Now, are any of these people going to run out and vote for Trump?

Not likely.

Will they maybe vote for a house member who is clearly pro-Israeli? Even a republican one?

If that republican is moderate on other issues?

Maybe.

Might they not vote at all?

Possibly. Maybe even probably.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Maybe tell them that a vote should be tactical and not emotional.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago

The issue of tactical versus emotional is actually fascinating. Much rhetoric on the left today is all about ‘feelings’, being ‘triggered’ etc. which is why I think women tend to vote Democrat- it’s all about how they ‘feel’ and not so much about ‘tactical policies’ that would truly make a difference. Similarly, men are leaning Republican because they are not persuaded by the emotional arguments of the Democrats. They are more pragmatic and concerned about national defense, borders, etc. Also married older women also tend to lean Republican because they have a family to defend. The sex imbalance between the parties that has been increasingly apparent has been written about in a number of articles. Hence, the reason why the Democrats toss out the ‘red meat’ of abortion when they think they are losing female attention – it’s Democrat Senator Schumer’s favor ploy.

Last edited 8 months ago by Cathy Carron
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

“Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” – Milton Himmelfarb.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
8 months ago

Not to stereotype, but I’m guessing you tend to see Jews in big cities (at least in America). Not a lot of Jewish farmers, truck drivers or commercial fisherman. I suspect the percentage of any population of big cities leaning Democratic is about the same as Jews leaning Democratic. New York went for Biden over Trump 76 – 23%. In that sense Jews may statistically lean more Republican.

James Knight
James Knight
8 months ago

Give it time. This will be a long conflict and I suspect many Jews are starting to realize a large portion of Young Democrats despise Jewish people.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
8 months ago

Absurd! How could anyone know this only days after the massacre? Only time will tell…

joe hardy
joe hardy
8 months ago

It’s important to know who your friends are and even more important to know who your enemies are. Jesus was a Jew.

Peter Samson
Peter Samson
8 months ago

As Milton Himmelfarb said, American Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.