On the eve of the first of three presidential debates, “American Jews are likely to vote to re-elect President [Barack] Obama by a margin of better than two to one over Gov. Mitt Romney.” That’s the finding of an American Jewish Committee national survey, which like it or not should come as no surprise.
Jews in this country have been voting heavily Democrat for the last eight decades in presidential elections, reflecting their liberal views on a wide range of issues. Four years ago, Obama received about 78 percent of the Jewish vote.
The most important issue this year, according to the AJC poll, was the economy, by far, with more than 61 percent listing it No. 1. A distant second was health care (16 percent), followed by abortion (4.7 percent) and U.S.-Israel relations (4.5 percent).
Those statistics might come as a shock to those who list Israel as the most important issue. The political divide in the Jewish community between Orthodox Jews and the rest of American Jewry is reflected in the fact that Orthodox Jews support Romney over Obama by 54 to 40 percent, while Conservative, Reform and “just Jewish” voters favor Obama by between 64 and 68 percent.
Obama is favored by Jewish women 69-19 percent, with concern about abortion legislation a major factor.
Statistics like these are a reminder that our community is facing a serious challenge in terms of remaining unified when, as the recently released New York Jewish Population Study indicated, the divide is getting wider between Orthodox Jews — a growing community — and the rest of American Jews, whose birthrates are in the other direction.
Regardless of the election results, more serious efforts are needed to discuss what will keep us together.