Will the GOP push for Jewish votes pay off?
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry blasted President Obama’s Israel policy on Tuesday.
September 21st, 2011
08:02 AM ET

Will the GOP push for Jewish votes pay off?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - These days, Republicans are hardly shy about coveting Jewish votes.

On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry was in New York to blame President Barack Obama for this week's Palestinian push for statehood at the United Nations.

Has Obama lost the Jewish vote?

"We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous," Perry, the governor of Texas, said in a nationally televised speech during which he was surrounded by Jewish leaders.

Last week, many Republicans said their special election victory in a heavily Jewish New York congressional district that had been occupied by a Democrat for nearly 90 years was a sign of trouble between Obama and American Jews, among the most reliably Democratic voters in the nation.

"Jewish Americans were a strong part of the coalition that elected Barack Obama in 2008 only to feel like they were left at the altar after numerous broken promises from the president," Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, told CNN this week.

"The president's lack of leadership and failed policies have left the door open for the Republican Party."

Egypt bans export of ceremonial palm fronds for Jewish holiday

But many American Jewish leaders - who know that observant Jews get married under a canopy called a chuppah, not at an altar - and experts on Jewish voting patterns are skeptical about the GOP Jewish offensive.

"Political observers and academics have been expecting a shift among Jewish voters for almost 40 years, since Jews tend to be high status, which is associated with voting Republican," said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.

"But every time there looks like there's going to be a big shift in the Jewish vote," he said, "something happens to delay it."

For decades, Jews have voted for Democratic presidential candidates in lopsided proportions, with Obama taking 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008. That was roughly in line with Jewish support for previous Democratic presidential nominees, like John Kerry and Al Gore.

U.S. in tough spot with Palestinian statehood bid

To be sure, there are signs of stress between Obama and the American Jewish community over Obama's stance toward Israel. Some American Jewish leaders have accused him of being too harsh on the Jewish state in its dealings with the Palestinians.

In March, Vice President Joe Biden, who was visiting Israel, denounced an Israeli plan to build apartments in a contested area of Jerusalem as "precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now."

And in May, many American Jewish leaders were angered over an Obama speech in which he suggested Israel return to pre-1967 borders, which excluded the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and other territory from neighboring countries.

"Is the president sometimes misguided in how honest he could be in discussing these matter with the American Jewish community?" says Jack Moline, a northern Virginia rabbi who is close to the Obama White House. "I'd say yes."

Obama's approval rating among Jews has declined over his first three years in office, as it has across demographic groups.

In September, 54% of Jewish Americans approved of Obama's performance as president, compared with 60% in June and 68% in May, according to Gallup polling.

But American Jewish leaders and experts say most Jews are loath to vote for a Republican presidential candidate, partly because most Jewish voters care about a lot more than Israel.

Though Orthodox Jews tend to be more socially conservative on issues like gay marriage, the overwhelming majority of American Jews belong to the Conservative or Reform movements, or are secular, and all those groups lean left.

Last week's special election in New York's 9th congressional district, which centers on Brooklyn and Queens, revolved largely around Obama's Israel policy. But the district's Jewish population, which is largely Orthodox, is not representative of the national Jewish community.

If the Republican Party were to get a substantial share of the Jewish vote, "it would be because of a confluence of attitudes, like concern about Israel, the economy, the low popularity of Obama and aggressive campaign among Republicans to court Jewish votes," says Green.

The Obama White House keeps in close contact with American Jewish leaders, trumpeting what it says is a close relationship with Israel around developments like this month's transport of the Israeli ambassador and staff out of Egypt after the Jewish state's embassy there was attacked, an operation in which the United States played a major role.

"The perceived distance between the president and some members of the Jewish community has been exploited by people who are interested in different outcomes in all sorts of arenas," said Moline, who is public policy director for the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.

"I don't want to say all of that is politics but there is some hyperbole."

Just this week, there was a conference call between Ira Forman, Jewish Outreach Director for the Obama campaign, and Jewish leaders, and a scheduled call with Obama and American rabbis for Thursday, according to Moline.

Some political observers say Republican overtures to Israel and to Jewish leaders are aimed more at American evangelical voters, a key part of the GOP base, than they are at Jews.

Support for Israel has become a key issue for American evangelicals, some of whom believe the country plays a key role in end times and others who believe there's a biblical mandate to honor the Jewish state.

"As a Christian I have a clear directive to support Israel," Perry said in remarks after his speech on Tuesday. "But that's easy for me. As an American and as a Christian I stand with Israel."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • Politics

soundoff (271 Responses)
  1. They will Push Harder than a dwarf giving birth to a full grown Rush Limbaugh

    But it won't get them any more votes because they are socially and ethicly bankrupt.

    September 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  2. Argle Bargle

    Rick Perry....oh, he IS the punchline!

    Why does he look so constipated?

    And really...an ORANGE tie? How gauche!

    He's probably wearing Superman jammies under his suit.

    God save us from another Texas Village Idiot.

    September 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  3. Rick

    you gotta wonder....why they always voted democratic in the past??
    I am independent...I vote for the person I think is the best, not for the parry or for the party agenda. I can not believe anyone would vote straight party politics....but it seems that is what most do...I always wonder why? Are people really that dumb that they cannot separate the issues from the candidates? And why do people listen to the endorsements celebrities? do they think the celebrity knows more then they do? makes ya wonder.... does it not?

    September 22, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Argle Bargle

      Yes, many people truly are that stupid.

      September 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  4. flavoter

    I kind of hope they get the Jewish vote I also hope that the next war the GOP starts is in Israel's front yard literally.
    They can be as many of the American smart people who "Showed Obama" by voting for these Republican Governors.
    Like here in Florida many of those same individuals some I work with choke at the sound of Rick Scotts name. But they showed Obama... REALLYmany cut their own throats also like Wisconsin. You can't cry when you ask for the pain.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  5. A Friend of Americans

    Americans, your nation is clearly doomed because you allow blasphemy and infanticide and immorality in your society. All the moral issues. Comparing to the moral problems, economy, immigration, health, education and all other issues are NOTHING. Choose godly leaders as if your life depends on it because it does.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Knuckleheads

      ha ha

      September 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • ummm...

      Stay in your country, your opinions is not welcomed here. Many of the men in our congress proclaim to be Christian, this country has gone down the crapper, and we have the worse poverty in our history. To fix this we need to put in people who can actually think and care about the people and not some hypocrite that can't eve follow their own religious teachings.

      September 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Mike

      pfffft godly leaders

      September 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  6. A Friend of the Jews

    The Jews should support GOP because the Evangelical Christians alone truly love the Jews and would protect Israel in all the world. The Jews must find who God is by trusting in their Messiah Jesus, caring more than who themselves are. Knowing God is universe-more important than clinging to one's own earthly ID.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • TheenD

      I have often wondered how many German Jews voted for the National Socialist German Workers Party in 1933...?

      September 22, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Mathilda

      @Theen, average German did not love the Jews. They had no specific reason to. American Evangelical Christians deeply love the Jews. The only humans the Jews can trust.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • g.c.kells

      Theen- The National Socialists did not assume power by winning a vote, they took it by force. They took advantage of the working class anger to secure a foothold in Congress then staged a terrorist attack to allow them to declare a state of emergency and appoint Hitler Chancellor of Germany. I'd say very few if any Jews voted for that.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Reality

    Why the interest in said Jewish vote? Based on the demographics, only 1.7% of the US population is Jewish. It would appear that Perry et al would be better served trying to convince the unaffiliated types (16.1%) to vote for them.

    Affiliation % of U.S.population

    Evangelical Protestant
    Mainline Protestant
    Black church
    Jehovah's Witness
    Orthodox Christian
    Other Christian






    Other 2.0%

    Of course, monetary support is also important.

    "A study in the United States, published in the Social Forces journal and conducted by Sociology researcher Lisa A. Keister while she was at the Ohio State University, found that adherents of Judaism attained the most wealth, believers of Catholicism and mainline Protestants were in the middle, while conservative Protestants accu-mulated the least wealth, while in general people who attend religious services achieved more wealth than those who do not (taking into account variations of education and other factors).[1] The researcher suggests that wealth accu-mulation is shaped by family processes.[2]

    The median net worth of people believing in the Jewish religion is calculated at 150,890 USD, while the median net worth of conservative Protestants (including Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Scientists) was found at 26,200 USD.[1] The overall median in the dataset was 48,200 USD.

    Another study, published in the American Journal of Sociology (AJS) by Lisa Keister after she moved to Duke University from Ohio State University, found that "religion affects wealth indirectly through educational attainment, fertility, and female labor force participation" but also found some evidence of direct effects of religion on wealth."

    September 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • .........

      do not waste time with reality posts hit report abuse to all reality postings

      September 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Ken

      I also wonder why the Jewish vote seems to have such high value when they make up such a small percentage of the US population. There are more Muslims in this country than Jews, if you want to go with a Middle Eastern theme. Way more Hispanics. Way more Black people.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  8. snake

    time to do what ancient europe did, kick the jews out. they cause too much economic upheaval and command too much power and influence for their small numbers. why? because they are the oldest known mafia. they keep the money in the family and religion, all others are to be cheated or ignored. it is a fact that jews have so many genetic disorders because of inbreeding, brothers marrying sisters to keep the money in the family. another reason why some of them look so ugly and demented.

    September 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm |

      snake your name wouldnt happen to be adolph would it?

      September 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Little Tiny Mustache


      September 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Ryan

      Well the one good thing about jews is how they all seem to stick together. Ya gotta like that. If only the rest of us all could do that. Hmmm wait who is gonna do the work.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • charles in charge

      Wow I'm betting your family was doing a lot of embreeding. You sound like the redneck hillbillies I grew up around in the south whose family members participated in incest for years. Please take an IQ test so your simple @$$ knows that people with average intellect dgaf about your backward woods ideas. For the better of the human race, KILL YOURSELF.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Knuckleheads

      ha ha, this is the guy who probably whacks off to Natalie Portman, a hot Jew, and buys uzis, an Israeli made weapon

      September 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.