s American Jewry losing some of its political
clout or is the nature of Jewish political influence
undergoing a significant and important transi-
tion? Six factors would seem to be important
measures of influence and effectiveness with refer-
ence to the Jewish vote.
First, as Jewish demographic numbers remain at
best stabilized, but more likely shrinking, other ethnic
and religious communities are seeing their voting num-
bers increasing and their political impact expanding.
While Jews vote in disproportionate numbers to any
other ethnic or religious group, this may not offset the
declining impact of the “Jewish vote.” Correspond-
ingly, Jewish financial support for elected officials
remains static, while other interest groups are rapidly
growing their economic influence with government of-
ficials and political party leaders, both changing and
expanding the political landscape.
Second, as key states within the Northeast corri-
dor lose congressional seats, Jewish political clout will
be furthered minimized or altered. Based on the 2010
census, Congressional seats have been reapportioned
to Southern and Western states with less significant
Third, our community’s strongest allies within the
Congress on both domestic and international con-
cerns are stepping away; some have elected to retire,
while others were defeated over the course of the past
several election cycles. In fact, one-third of the Con-
gress over the past two years has been replaced by a
new generation of representatives. A significant num-
ber of Jewish elected officials at all levels of
government are also concluding their service at this
time, further weakening the presence of Jews in some
key elected positions. Despite the loss of specific lead-
ers, a new generation of Jewish elected officials is
beginning to emerge. Representative Eric Canter (R),
the House Majority Leader, represents one of these
Fourth, are Jewish voting patterns changing?
There is evidence to suggest that younger voters are
less connected to some of the core political issues of
interest to the Jewish community and that this age
cohort also exhibit a greater propensity to declare
themselves as “independent” voters, rejecting the
traditional pattern of party affiliation that defined prior
generations of Jews. New immigrants, more tradition-
ally-observant Jews, and a shift of political loyalties
among some Baby Boomers have created some mo-
mentum within the ranks of the Republican Party.
Some have suggested that even a 20% shift within
the Jewish voting block could alter the outcomes of
close national elections in such key swing states as
Ohio and Florida.
There is some additional data available to reflect
a growing disconnect between voting patterns in na-
tional elections and those related to state and local
campaigns. Are Jews increasingly voting their self-in-
terests and pocket book concerns in the case of this
second category, yet expressing their ideological be-
liefs and party loyalties when casting their ballots in
There appears to be a more general shift in the
reshaping of “liberalism” on the part of the Jewish
electorate, where moderate positions are replacing
the more traditional left-of-center political perspec-
tive. This shift seems evident as voters become more
selective in identifying with liberal causes and, in turn,
are redefining how they interpret the nature of their
ideological credentials and voting positions.
Finally, but of particular significance, is the ab-
sence of a shared Jewish political agenda. In its place
one finds a deep and, at times, angry social divide that
defines the current political state of American Jewry.
For some observers of the American Jewish scene this
new reality portends a serious crisis; as a minority
community, Jews cannot afford the luxury of being
seen as a house divided. In the absence of a common
focus, a divided and inflamed polity has permitted it-
self to become embroiled in controversy and discord;
civility has given way to partisanship and the evidence
of communal conflict. Ethnic communities operate
within a particular framework of influence and credi-
bility. When their power is understood to be
compromised or weakened by internal discord, the
capacity to be politically effective is proportionally
reduced. Yet, other voices within the community are
welcoming this reconfiguration of power, suggesting
that this moment in time reflects the maturing of our
community, where diversity of opinion should be wel-
comed and embraced.
This article is drawn, in part, from Dr. Windmueller’s
recently released 2011 Jewish Political Survey, where
some 2300 individuals offered their views on an
array of political themes. Dr. Windmueller’s writings
can be found at thewindreport.com.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Reflections on Jewish Power and Influence
Loss of Jewish Members
of the Congress and
Senate in 2010-2012
Representative Jane Harmon
California: Resigned from the House)
Representatives Brad Sherman
California: Likely to face one another in
a newly configured Congressional District
as a result of the 2010 Census and
Representative Anthony Weiner
New York: Resigned and his District
is likely to be reconfigured)
Representative Robert Filner
California: May resign in order
to run for mayor of San Diego)
Senator Russ Feingold
Wisconsin: Defeated in November 2010)
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Connecticut: Announced plans to retire)
Senator Herb Kohl
Wisconsin: Announced plans to retire)
Based on June 2010 Gallup Daily interviewing,
American Jews tilt to the Democratic candidate over the
Republican candidate 62% to 28% when asked for which party's candidate they will vote this fall. If we re-percentage down
to a two-party vote (i.e., taking out the undecideds), we get a 69% to 31% distribution of the Jewish vote. That’s off a little
from the 78% vote the exit polls showed Obama getting from Jews in the 2008 election. But we would expect some differ-
ences based on the fact that this is a midterm election rather than a presidential election, and the fact that we are still dealing
with registered voters at this point, not likely voters. June 2010 Gallup data also show that Jews are continuing to give
Obama a differentially higher approval rating.
Jews, Black Protestants, and the Tea Party
Among Jews, the religiously unaffiliated, and black Protestants, there is more opposition than support for the Tea Party.
Nearly half of Jews (49%) say they disagree with the Tea Party movement, compared with 15% who agree with it.
Among the unaffiliated, more than four-in-ten (42%) disagree with the movement while 15% agree with it.
About two-thirds of atheists and agnostics (67%) disagree with the movement.
Most black Protestants polled (56%) say they have not heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion about it. But among black
Protestants who offer an opinion, those who disagree with the movement outnumber those who agree with it by more than
five-to-one (37% disagree vs. 7% agree).
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor in Jewish Communal Service, HUC-JIR/Jack H. Skirball Campus/Los