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The Jewish Vote:
Political Power and Identity in US Elections

graphic of cartoon hand putting a ballot into a box titled "The Jewish Vote" against the backdrop of the US flag

The Jewish Vote is a story of the great, mutual, love affair between America and its Jews, rooted in American exceptionalism.

by Gil Troy

In this report, Professor Gil Troy, visiting professor at the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa, addresses the disproportionate frenzy surrounding “The Jewish Vote” during the 2016 US Presidential election.  Since the 1930s American Jews have been woven into the fabric of the American political landscape. From civil rights to women’s rights, Jews have been on the frontier of liberal political movements, spearheading social reforms and shaping American policies from within. Troy posits that there has been a Jewish vote – a solid, stable, liberal Democratic majority, usually in the 70-percent range in elections since 1928. It rarely affects the national outcome but it does reflect the American Jewish mentality. In so many ways, the liberal Democratic Jews who constitute the Jewish vote are living and expressing the new Jewish consensus.

Summary:

  • Although Jews make up approximately 2% of the American electorate, Jews stand out politically because there are disproportionate numbers of Jewish officeholders and Jewish activists and because of the Electoral College’s “Megaphone Effect”: many key swing states that help determine elections have a high concentration of Jews.
  • Today more than ever American Jews embrace their liberalism. Why Jews are liberal has been a great American Jewish mystery. Scholars attribute it to Jewish values of social justice or once-oppressed Jews’ fears of government power.
  • Today’s third generation American Jews are open-spirited Freedom-fromers, pro-choice, and deeply, proudly American. They inherited an understanding of their past from their parents and grandparents and absorbed post-modern culture fears of restrictions, commitments, and norms, imposed from the outside, especially governmentally or religiously. They want freedom from traditional inhibitions and legal restrictions against pre-marital sex, divorce, abortion, homosexuality – and often define that as their Jewish identity.
  • American Jews are perceived as voting for Jewish interests, especially regarding Israel, however American Jews are more pro-choice than pro-Israel when voting, but pro-Israel nevertheless.

This is the story of the American Jewish vote – a story of contradictions and confusions, of frustration for the right and inspiration for the left, a story, ultimately, about cultural identity and shared fears more than political stands or personalities. To dive into this story, read the full report:

You can download the PDF version here.

You can download the word version here.

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