Emerging Trends Among 2016 Jewish Voters

2016_electionBy Steven Windmueller

As the campaign moves to the finish line, with less than a month left, one finds a number of significant new developments emerging among Jewish voters:

NonVoting Jews: For the first time in contemporary American politics a significant number of American Jews are likely not to cast their ballots for President. Who are these non-voters? Two groups of voters comprise this nonvoting element: Millennials who were “Bernie’s kids” and remain unhappy with their electoral choices; and disaffected Republicans, uncomfortable with their party’s nominee, yet unable or unwilling to support Hilary Clinton. As both candidates have high “unfavorables” some of this push back may result in a fall-off of voter participation within the general electorate. As high as 10% of eligible Jewish voters may elect to sit out the presidential campaign.

ThirdParty Jewish Voters: Whether for ideological reasons or as an expression of protest of protest over the choices offered by the major political parties, some American Jews will vote Libertarian or Green in the 2016 campaign. Anywhere between 3-5% of Jewish voters may elect this option.

NonGiving Jews: Disaffected by the Trump candidacy, Jewish Republicans are not writing checks for the top of the GOP ticket! While a few may be supporting Clinton, many others appear to be “sitting this one out!” In turn, the Democratic Party has seen a rise in Jewish donor support in part a reaction to the Trump message.

Jewish Social Activists on the Move: One finds a significant number of older and younger liberal Jews participating in mobilization efforts to “get the vote out” in key swing states, to staff phone banks, and to give money and promote Clinton events and ads. Part of this intensified effort has been motivated by a strong push back against Donald Trump and his message. One finds an extraordinarily large number of Jews actively campaigning for Hilary Clinton in response to the Trump candidacy.

A New Class of Jewish Voters: There is evidence to suggest that some of Trump’s Jewish supporters come from two sectors. They are an assortment of “strange bedfellows” as Haredi and immigrant Jews align with the Trump message. A combination of factors is bringing these voters together. Their sense of feeling scared about the political landscape and their unhappiness with the status quo.

The Jewish Republican Voter: In light of the fallout around the Trump campaign, will the Republican Party retain its Jewish base in this election? Republican candidates have been garnering over time between 22-35% of the Jewish vote. Will this election see a downsizing of those numbers?

Dr. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor in Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. His set of writings can be found at www.thewindreport.com.