Dr. Melissa Deckman is a Professor of Political Science at Washington College and a PRRI Affiliated Scholar. Her research interests center on the intersection of religion, women, and politics. She has written in the past about the Christian Right’s participation in school board politics. Her most recent work is as co-editor and contributor to Curriculum and the Culture Wars: Debating the Bible’s Place in Public Schools. PRRI sat down with Dr. Deckman to discuss the significance of the book.
Jewish Americans may be a relatively small voting bloc, but they remain at the center of a battle for their political loyalty, with Republicans seeking to paint a dismal portrait of Democrats’ record on Israel. A new analysis of Jewish voting patterns in presidential elections from 1972 to 2008 from the nonpartisan Solomon Project, however, shows (once again) that efforts to pry a substantial number of Jewish voters away from the Democrats could be described as “mission improbable.”
According to researchers Mark Mellman, Aaron Strauss, and Kenneth Wald, “since 1984, Jewish support for Democratic candidates has been 21-34 points higher than the support from the national electorate.” Jewish voters are also much more likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans (57% vs. 13%). These numbers, the researchers add, have remained “remarkably” stable over the past forty years.
In a survey conducted earlier this spring, PRRI found that 62% of Jewish voters reported that they would like to see Obama re-elected in 2012, more than twice the number who said they would prefer that a Republican candidate win the election (29%). At this point in the election, of course, Mitt Romney was still not the official Republican candidate.
The number of Jewish voters who reported that they supported Obama in the spring of 2012 is lower than the Obama’s support for Jewish voters in 2008. According to Wald and his colleagues though Obama’s actual support in 2008 was 74% and not 78% as reported in the exit polls. Obama’s support in the spring 2012 is nearly identical to the number of Jewish voters who reported supporting him at a comparable point in the 2008 election cycle (64%).
Meanwhile, Republicans’ attacks on the President, which have centered mostly on his position on Israel, are unlikely to have much weight among the majority of Jewish voters, only 4% of whom cited Israel as the most important issue ahead of the 2012 election. Although debate over the Jewish vote will likely continue right up until Election Day, if history is any guide, it seems extremely unlikely that Jewish support for Obama will differ much from that of previous Democratic presidential candidates.