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Jewish Journal

What Motivates Jewish Voters?

by Steven Windmueller

January 19, 2012 | 5:06 pm

Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.

Jews are like other American voters, but more so!  Sociologists have suggested that this fascination and engagement with politics has come to represent the “civil religion” of American Judaism. More than 80% of Jews who are eligible to vote actively exercise this democratic privilege!

As with every American voter, different issues are seen as important to individual Jewish voters.Yet, based on the data from an array of surveys, there are a set of priorities that define for many Jews their core interests and shared concerns. In selecting candidates for the presidency and other federal positions, Jews frequently reference these ten elements (Clearly, no one can speak for a community or even for an individual voter, but this compilation is drawn from an array of studies that have examined Jewish political attitudes):

  1. A statement of support by candidates committing the United States to ensure Israel’s security and its territorial integrity.  Specific actions that reflect United States engagement with Israel through diplomatic, economic and military measures.
  2. A commitment to this nation’s security by ensuring the maintenance of a strong military designed to enhance homeland security and combat international terrorism while being able to challenge the enemies of the United States and Israel.
  3. A particular plan designed to isolate Iran, while preventing the regime in Tehran from developing or acquiring nuclear arms.
  4. Where appropriate, engagement with other countries to seek multi-lateral, alliance-based actions to advance our collective interests. To embrace international organizations when and where they can be effective in combating terrorism and in advancing social change and democratic values.
  5. Focus on a fiscal plan and tax policy that promotes sustainable economic growth while reducing government spending.
  6. The framing of a domestic policy that ensures core health care and social services are available to citizens.
  7. A commitment to equal rights and access for all citizens and the support of programs that promote economic opportunity.
  8. Maintaining an overarching policy of church-state separation but nonetheless open to specific programs that bring together religious institutions and the public sector in meeting core social service needs.
  9. Support for a woman’s right of choice by upholding Roe v. Wade.
  10. Leadership and management experience as demonstrated by a candidate’s ability to bring different political factions together and the capacity to manage complex issues.

In addition, acknowledging that individuals have particular interests or priorities, some of the most pressing issues for Jewish voters include:

  • Environment
  • Energy
  • Immigration Reform
  • Darfur and Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Social Security/Medicare
  • Arts and Culture
  • Education
  • Gay Rights


(Again, these findings are taken from a number of studies and interviews concerning Jewish voting priorities.)  In the American Jewish Committee annual surveys of Jewish leaders, those who participated where asked to identify their political orientation:

1. Extremely Liberal 6
2. Liberal 22
3. Slightly Liberal 14
4. Middle of the Road 28
5. Slightly Conservative 12
6. Conservative 13
7. Extremely Conservative 3
8. Not Sure 2

From these studies and others that have been conducted over time, one can identify over time the configuration of the “Jewish vote” as consisting of primarily a moderate-liberal base of voters (64%).  Yet, as we have noted in earlier blogs and other writings, Jewish voters can be found in all sectors of the political spectrum.

Your comments and insights pertaining to this election series are encouraged.


Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service
HUC-JIR
Los Angeles campus
swindmueller@huc.edu
See: www.thewindreport.com

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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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