American Jewish Committee American Jews Arab-Israeli conflict Charles M. Blow Obama administration Palestinians

NY Times perpetuates myth that American Jews are single-issue voters

More and more Jewish voters are deserting the Democratic party, according to a Pew Research Center poll. The survey shows that 33% of American Jewish voters now identify or lean Republican, up from 20% in 2008.

That’s interesting and troubling to a died-in-the-wool Democrat like me. But Charles M. Blow’s take on the poll in the New York Times is even more troubling, because it bolsters the canard that American Jews are single-issue voters who judge politicians mainly on the basis of their positions on Israel. Commenting on Pew’s results, Blow asserts, “This is no doubt a reaction, at least in part, to the Obama administration’s having taken a hard rhetorical stance with Israel while `taking special time and care on our relationship with the Muslim world.’”

Blow devotes much of the article to describing the Obama administration’s rocky relationship with Israel and the extent to which this troubles the Jewish community.

But he does not even mention the possibility that many Jewish voters are troubled by Obama and the Dems for the same reasons that other voters are troubled: the sorry state of the economy, concerns about the health care initiative, a general feeling that the country is heading in the wrong direction, etc. And he offers no evidence whatsoever that Obama’s dealings with Israel are more important to these voters than domestic matters.

On the contrary, any number of surveys show that Israel-related matters are a relatively low priority for most American Jewish voters. When pollsters from Gerstein Agne asked American Jews in March to choose the top two issues they will use to decide their 2010 Congressional votes, Israel ranked 7th. It was deemed to be less important than the economy, health care, the deficit and government spending, Social Security and Medicare, and terrorism and national security. Israel was given the same ranking as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only 10% of the respondents chose Israel as one of their top two issues.

Similarly, while Israel’s fate is certainly a concern for most American Jews, an American Jewish Committee poll in November, 2007 revealed that it is an obsession for a tiny minority of Jewish voters:

When asked to pick their most important campaign issue from a list of options, 23% of those surveyed named the economy and jobs, followed by health care (19%), the war in Iraq (16%), terrorism and national security (14%), support for Israel (6%), immigration (6%) and the energy crisis (6%).

Does Israel matter to the American Jews who have jumped ship and joined the Republicans in recent months? Most likely. But nowhere in the results of the Pew poll or any previous survey is there an indication that issues connected to Israel are the most important factors in determining American Jews’ political affiliations.

As I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, “Israel is one of the things Americans Jews care about and worry about, but when it is time to exercise our civic responsibilities, what happens here at home is what matters most to us.”

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