Baltimore Jewish Times: Jewish Voters Concerned With Domestic Issues Ahead of 2020

By Cathi Conti Sinsabaugh

New poll findings released last week by Greenberg Research on behalf of the Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) found that Jewish voters are predominantly concerned with domestic policy issues, particularly health care and immigration, as well anti-Semitism and rising insecurity due to white nationalists threats.

Jewish opinions have not changed since JEI’s last poll in October 2018. The percentage of Jewish voters identifying as Republican remains the same (25%). The percentage identifying as Democrat or independent also remains steady at 65% and nine percent, respectively.

“This poll confirms that the Jewish electorate prioritizes domestic policy issues above all others,” said Ralph Grunewald, chairman of the JEI Board. “It also affirms that the Jewish community feels less secure than before President Trump took office and is deeply concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism in America in the past two years.”

Polls indicate that Jewish voters disapprove of President Trump’s handling of nearly every issue, including the rise of anti-Semitism. A majority of Jewish voters also say they feel less secure and hold the president at least partially responsible for recent deadly shooting attacks on synagogues.

Jewish Voters and the Issues:

Jewish voters indicated that priority issues (most/very important) when deciding which candidate to support include: protecting Medicare and Social Security (87%), improving the economy and creating jobs (86%), and access to affordable healthcare (80%).

Nearly three quarters (73%) feel less secure than they did two years ago. This coincides with a rise (since JEI’s October 2018 poll) in Jewish voters prioritizing security issues such as: combating terrorism (82%), combating the influence of white supremacists and the far right (78%) and enacting gun safety laws (79%).

Israel remains the lowest policy priority of Jewish voters, with candidates’ stance on Israel ranking at the bottom of a list of 16 policy priority issues for a second year in a row.

Jewish Voters on Trump:

71% unfavorably view President Trump’s job performance and 70% disapprove of him overall.

71% disapprove of the way President Trump has handled anti-Semitism, which is a slight increase since JEI’s October 2018 poll.

Nearly 60% believe President Trump has at least some responsibility for the shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, with 38% expressing concerns that Trump is encouraging violent ultra-right extremists.

67% would vote today for a generic Democratic candidate over President Trump and 65% would vote for Democrat Joe Biden over President Trump.

Greenberg Research conducted the online survey May 6-12 of 1,000 Jewish voters.

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America discussed the poll’s implications for the 2020 election.

“There is a constant here that Jews are Democrats because Democrats care for Jewish values,” Soifer said. “But there have been new developments here. In addition to a wide range of domestic issues that Jews are voting on, we also know that Jews are also voting on their own security. And this is a new dynamic we are seeing in this county.”

For 2020, Soifer agrees that Jewish values will dominate the political debate among Jewish voters. “We know that three quarters of the Jewish community are Democrats and continually vote Democrat,” Soifer said. “But what is unique about this moment is that it’s not just about political affiliation, but it’s about Jewish values, and that President Trump has not reflected Jewish values. One thing is new: American Jews are voting to their insecurity and the rise in anti-Semitism, and they clearly associate their rise in insecurity with Trump.”

Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, said the poll was good news for Trump.

“The Jewish numbers for Trump are a floor and generic Dem numbers are a ceiling,” Brooks said on Twitter. “No one who now says they’re for Trump are going to change their minds. He will get a higher share of the Jewish vote than this.”

The poll reflected a healthy representation of millennial voters, as was heavily weighted towards non-affiliated and cultural Jews, which Soifer agreed is “representative of the American Jewish population.”

So has the anti-Semitism expressed by freshmen Democrats such as Reps. IIhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) had an adverse impact on Jewish voters’ views of the Democrat party?

“They (Jews) are clearly not concerned with Democrats like Ilhan Omar as much as they are concerned with white supremacy,” Soifer said.

The Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in August 2018 with a mission to deepen the public’s understanding of the Jewish electorate and mobilize the Jewish vote in future elections. Board members Stuart Kurlander and Michael C. Gelman are members of the ownership group of Mid-Atlantic Media, publishers of the Baltimore Jewish Times and Washington Jewish Week.

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