The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has two main objectives: 1) To help Republican candidates get elected to office; and 2) To grow the Jewish Republican vote. After four years of hard work, the group has made impressive progress on the second front. But now those gains are in jeopardy – the sudden roar and rise of social conservative Republicans will likely scare off Jews who had been slowly drifting to the right.
Seventy-eight percent of Jewish-Americans voted for President Barack Obama in the 2008 election – exactly average for presidential elections since 1992 (78.2%), and slightly above the average Jewish Democratic vote since 1960 (73.5% – Carter in 1980 really brought down the average). See the Jewish vote in all presidential elections since 1928 here.
But consider the statistics released by the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee (AJC) on April 30, 2012:
If the election had been held on that day:
61% of Jews say they would vote for Obama 28% of Jews say they would vote for Romney 11% of Jews say they are undecided
A drop from 78 to 61 is a pretty noticeable decline. Clearly, the Obama administration has alienated Jewish voters, or the RJC has been successful in winning over Jews. In the poll, most of the new-RJC voters were probably foreign policy voters; according to the AJC, “Among those Jews who are focused on national security concerns or U.S.-Israel relations, only 42% would vote for Obama in an election against Romney.” This seems consistent with the messaging of the RJC: the organization has trumpeted the rift between the Obama administration and Israel on building in East Jerusalem, the alleged weakness of the president's Iran stance, and the administration’s alleged reluctance to pointedly identify enemies of freedom in the Middle East.
Unfortunately for the RJC, however, Republicans have likely since lost Jewish support in the month of May, because of the issue of gay marriage. It's no puzzle where American Jews stand on social issues, and gay marriage in particular. A Public Religion Research Institute poll showed that 81% of Jews support gay marriage. Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency puts Jewish support of gay marriage at about 75%. The Los Angeles Times reported that 78% of Jews opposed California's Prop 8 that aimed to ban gay marriage.
In the past month, while President Obama has come out in support of gay marriage, social conservative Republicans have: 1) Witch hunted Richard Grenell – an open homosexual – out of his position as foreign policy spokesperson for the Romney team, 2) Banned gay civil unions and gay marriage in North Carolina; 3) Cheered Mitt Romney’s reiteration of his opposition to gay marriage and civil unions. Because of this tough Republican stance on social issues, Jewish voters may swing back to the left again.
It’s a real shame. If social conservative Republicans had just kept their focus on the economy then come November, my friends at the RJC would probably be celebrated as some of the best political tacticians of this age. But after this socially-wrought May, I would be surprised if Obama failed to get less than 70% of the Jewish vote.
Whether or not this – the loss of potential Jewish voters for Republicans – matters is a topic for another article. But just remember that there are a good number of Jews in Florida and Ohio, and those are two states that Romney must win.