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Are Younger Jews Paying Their Dues? The Changing Landscape of Jewish Politics

by Steven Windmueller

May 9, 2012 | 10:41 am

Younger voters (those between the ages of 18-30) will be a target audience for both political parties this fall.

With the economic picture being bleak around job creation, higher gas prices, and the student loan debate, many younger voters may well be searching for political answers that meet their specific needs and concerns.

A recently released Harvard study noted that the President had a significant advantage over John McCain in appealing to this voting sector in 2008. That may not be the case however in 2012, as support for the President within this age cohort has dissipated.

For younger Jewish voters the economic crunch will most certainly be a factor in their political thinking. Yet, as we have come to appreciate some of these voters have specific single issue concerns within the public policy arena. Among the priorities of Gen X’ers and Y’ers are the environment, human rights (Darfur), economic justice, education and foreign affairs.

Unlike their parents’ or grandparents’ generation, younger Jewish voters seem not to hold the same level of party loyalty. This may have some significant implications over time with regard to the traditional ties that Jews have had with the Democratic Party.  Similarly, there is some evidence that younger Jews are not registering and voting with the same intensity as their folks.

Historically, nearly 90% of eligible Jewish voters were engaged with the election process; this high percentage rate of participation appears to be declining. Yet, among ethnic and religious voting blocs, Jews still retain the highest levels of political engagement.

Several sub-groupings of younger Jewish voters seem to be in play in this election cycle. In addition to the single-issue constituencies, one finds an emerging entrepreneurial class of voters who are highly focused on business opportunities and financial investment options, concerned about the constraints of government regulatory policies that might impede access and growth.

A new sub-set involves radicalized voters who can identified on both ends of the political discourse, the tea party conservatives on the one side and the “Occupied Wall Street” crowd on the other.

This data surrounding these generational social and demographic changes corresponds to the larger redistribution of voting patterns now seen across the political spectrum.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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From June 2006 to June 2010, Steven Windmueller served as the Dean of Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles campus.  In March of 2009, President David Ellenson named Professor...

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