2014: Jewish Voters Pulling to the Right

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The 2014 elections showed Republicans making inroads in quite a few surprising demographics, but it is their growing popularity in the Jewish population that has Democrats concerned. According to Tuesday’s exit polls, 33 percent of Jewish voters pulled the lever for Republicans while only 65 percent voted for Democrats. While it will be a long time before Jews identify with the Republican Party, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this marked a 30-year low when it came to Jewish support for the Democrats.

It’s not a new trend. Though Obama has undoubtedly hurt his party’s chances with the Jewish voter, GOP support in that community has been steadily rising since at least 1992. That year, only 11 percent of Jewish voters marked their ballots for President Bush. In 2012, 32 percent voted Romney. With a slight uptick in the midterms, the trend seems to suggest that Republicans are slowly but surely winning over what was once thought to be a monolithic liberal voting block.

The Israel Factor

Over the last year, Obama has made it clear that he does not stand with Israel in the tradition of the American presidency. He has slammed Benjamin Netanyahu with increasingly strong language when it comes to civilian deaths in Gaza, and liberals as a whole have condemned Israel for fighting back against Palestinian terror attacks. While Jewish Americans do not always identify with unconditional Israeli support, it’s clear that at least a portion of the community has been turned off by the president’s biased approach.

A poll earlier this year showed that only 31 percent of Democrats supported Israel’s actions in Gaza this year. 65 percent of Republicans supported those actions. This provides a stark example of one issue where the two sides could not be further apart. Liberals believe Israel is engaged in an illegal occupation, and some have even compared Netanyahu’s military force with the rise of the Third Reich. Conservatives, meanwhile, have strongly condemned the terrorism of Hamas while supporting Israel’s right to defend themselves against attack.

Could we live to see the day when Republicans capture the majority of the Jewish vote? Most analysts doubt it. Obama has been careful to express strong support for Israel even while his actions seem to indicate otherwise. Many Jewish Americans are almost unbelievably liberal, and it might take more than a single issue to turn the tide in a big way. While the GOP can continue to chip away at the massive disparity, the chances of seeing a strong foundation of Jewish support anytime soon are slim.