Jewish Vote 2012: Economic Justice Was Critical Factor

Reference: Workmen's Circle / Arbeter Ring

New survey from the Workmen’s Circle/ Arbeter Ring reveals that economic justice issues, not Israel, motivated voters

January 15, 2013

Economic justice concerns were the critical consideration pushing two-thirds of American Jews to vote for President Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012, a post-election survey and white paper commissioned by the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring found. Additionally, the survey revealed that more than two-thirds of American Jews voted for Democrats in House and Senate races across the country.

The results showed that, despite repeated predictions to the contrary, Jews continue to identify heavily as liberal rather than conservative (55% vs. 26%, respectively, with the other 19% identifying as moderate), reflected as well in their voting behavior and party affiliation.

Commitment to Israel exerted the least impact among six issues measured, in sharp contrast to the powerful influence of economic justice attitudes. That is, once a voter’s positions were determined on economic justice, their attachment to Israel made hardly any difference in predicting their vote for President, Senate and the House.

The poll also revealed that Orthodox Jews were 50% more likely to vote for a Republican candidate – be it for President, Senate, or Congress – consistent with their more conservative views on economic justice and other matters. In parallel with the general electorate, among Jews, men were 11% more likely to vote Republican.

These findings emerge from a national survey of American Jews fielded just after Election Day by Prof. Steven M. Cohen of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner and Prof. Samuel Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College. The field work for the study was carried out by YouGov, a global market research company. The analysis drew upon a pre-election survey of 2,671 American Jews, 2,067 of whom participated in the post-election survey sponsored by the Workmen’s Circle.

Cohen stated:  “As researchers we were not overly surprised by the persistence of liberal attitudes and Democratic Party voting among American Jews, notwithstanding numerous predictions to the contrary. However, we were deeply impressed by the extent to which liberal views on economic justice issues played such an important role in driving the vote, and the extent to which even the most affluent held these views and supported President Obama.”

Abrams added: “For the first time, we had enough cases among the reasonably affluent to reliably demonstrate that Jews’ liberalism extends to high-earning households.”

“These numbers show us that the twenty-first century Jewish community remains committed to the progressive values that defined the Workmen’s Circle throughout the past hundred years,” said Madelon Braun, the president of the Workmen’s Circle.

Key Findings Include:

  • American Jews consistently favor increasing spending on social welfare and regulating big business, in the midst of an election focused on budget deficits and taxation.
  • By a two-to-one ratio, Jewish voters see government regulation of business as necessary to protect the public interest, rather than “usually doing more harm than good” (55% vs. 28%).
  • Asked to choose between the contrasting positions of fewer government services with reduced spending vs. many more services with increased spending, Jews in the survey opted for the latter (43% vs. 37%).
  • By more than a two-to-one ratio, Jewish voters prefer decreasing defense spending to increasing defense spending (53% vs. 26%).
  • By a 43% to 31% margin, more American Jews agreed with the view that, “Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently,” than with the position that “Poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”
  • By almost a two-to-one ratio, respondents expressed the belief that Medicare can be preserved without cutting benefits (50% vs. 28%).
  • Commitment to economic justice issues is so widespread in the American Jewish population that it extends even to the highest income Jews. Those earning over $250,000 express liberal views on economic justice as frequently as those earning far less. Jews earning $250,000 or more were as likely as lower-earning Jews to vote for Obama and other Democrats.
  • Orthodox Jews differ dramatically from other Jews on economic justice issues, voting preferences, and are about as likely to vote for Republicans as non-Orthodox Jews to vote for Democrats.
  • Accompanying the liberal and progressive stances on economic justice issues were a variety of positions of similar political coloration on issues like climate change, abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage.
  • Among the vast majority of Americans who are not Orthodox, younger adults display even greater levels of liberal views than people their parents’ age.

“We are thrilled to be reinvigorating the Workmen’s Circle during a time when Jews across America are committed to the idea of making this a better world for all,” said Ann Toback, executive director of the Workmen’s Circle.

For the full report go to: WC Poll Election PDF