The wave of voter discontent with the status quo that swept Donald Trump to a stunning upset presidential election victory Tuesday was not shared by the Jewish community, nearly three-quarters of which voted for Hillary Clinton based on her promise to continue the policies of President Barack Obama.
Fully 70 percent of Jews polled said they approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president with only 30 percent disapproving, according to a poll commissioned by J Street, a pro-Israel/pro-peace advocacy organization.
That same poll found that 72 percent of Jews had an unfavorable opinion of Trump and only 18 percent had a favorable opinion.
Hillary Markowitz, a New York coordinator of Jews Choose Trump, said the election of Trump is a repudiation of Obama by the rest of the country.
“Everybody hates Obamacare,” she said. “He has so weakened America’s foreign policy and the Iran nuclear agreement was a turnoff to a lot of people. People feel he has created divisiveness in this country.”
Although she said she believes some of the things Trump has said are “rude and crass, he is not giving billions of dollars in cash to a terrorist state or putting his emails on a server that foreign countries can hack into. … I think Jews didn’t vote for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama – they are trying to be so politically correct and so ultra-liberal.”
She noted that in his victory statement, “You saw that his tone was completely different — very presidential and very classy.”
A poll commissioned by the Associated Press and a pool of news organizations found that 71 percent of Jews voted for Clinton and that only 24 percent voted for Trump.
“The Trump campaign rhetoric resonated more negatively with Jewish Americans than it did with any other group,” observed Steven Rabinowitz, a co-founder of a Clinton super PAC. “No other group voted in more disproportionate number [for the Republican presidential candidate] than they had in the recent past.”
Some believe Trump got off on the wrong track with the Jewish community when he addressed a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition last December, said he was largely self-funding his campaign, and then added: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”
Trump’s campaign itself was repeatedly criticized for its connections — whether intentional or not — to anti-Semitism during the 2016 election, including an ad last week that the Anti-Defamation League and others criticized for using alleged anti-Semitic code words and images reminiscent of the Holocaust era. The Trump campaign rejected the charges.
As the election returns came in and Trump was declared the winner in state after state, one Brooklyn rabbi voiced concern on her Facebook page, writing: “I’m very, very afraid. … This reaffirms my belief that people were having trouble admitting to pollsters that they would vote for Trump. I cannot believe the overall popular vote for him is so high. This is a frightening night so far.”
But Rabinowitz said that although “people should be deeply concerned, it is too soon to be afraid. Let’s see who Trump surrounds himself with.” He said Trump’s known confidants who are former elected officials “are not crazies” and “are trustworthy in a crisis. … If they take us in the wrong direction in a policy way, that would be deeply sad. But we don’t have to fear for our lives.”
Republican Mitt Romney received about 30 percent of the Jewish vote in the last presidential election; Obama received 69 percent. But because of the small number of Jews polled in the exit polls and the two third-party candidates on the ballot this year, the results this year and in 2012 represent a “statistical tie,” according to David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and an expert on Jewish voter behavior.
The J Street poll found that Jews are not great fans of Clinton, however, with 51 percent saying they had a favorable view of her and 37 percent saying they viewed her unfavorably. Interestingly, she polled better than her husband, Bill, who was given a favorable rating by 45 percent of the Jews and an unfavorable rating by 37 percent.
In addition, it found 45 percent of those who voted for Trump did so because of their dislike for Clinton. And 32 percent said their vote for Clinton was more because of their dislike of Trump.
Trump’s election as the 45th president came as a shock to Clinton supporters who had begun gathering at the Javits Center at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon for what they expected would be Clinton’s acceptance speech later that night.
“We always knew it would be a tight race, but people were very surprised and shocked last night,” said Herb Block, coordinator of Jewish outreach and mobilization for Clinton in New York. “Many of those involved in her campaign thought the election was going in her favor — it was surprising. The polls had always been close, but she had maintained a consistent lead since the [Democratic] convention.”
Asked about the Jewish support for Clinton, Block said it was not surprising “because there is a long tradition in the Jewish community of voting for Democratic [presidential] candidates. Plus you had in this election a candidate who lives in this state and is deeply familiar with the Jewish community and its issues having been its senator and worked on those issues when she was secretary of state.”
The people participating in the J Street poll gave Clinton a higher ranking than Trump in her ability to handle such issues as Israel, advancing Middle East peace, and ISIS and terrorism.
The economy ranked first in the J Street poll among “issues facing our country today” (35 percent), followed by health care and ISIS and terrorism (both 27 percent); Israel was cited by only nine percent of the Jewish respondees.
A separate poll of Jewish voters in Florida, a swing state that ended up in Trump’s column, found that Jews supported Clinton by 68-28 percent.
Carol Greenwald, founder of Jews Choose Trump, said that although virtually the entire Jewish establishment supported Clinton, “I want the Trump administration to know there was an organized Jewish effort to support him.”
She said the group’s website had 220,000 visits and that 1,500 Jews signed on as supporters.
“Trump was demonized by the Democratic Party and the Jews believed it,” Greenwald added. “A number of people said he was an anti-Semite and that I was a kapo for supporting him. Someone wrote on our website, ‘Don’t you know he’s Hitler?’ I wrote back that it is insane to compare this man to Hitler and that he was trivializing the Holocaust.”
Greenwald was also critical of the Republican Jewish Coalition for “never mentioning Trump.”
The RJC congratulated Trump in the second paragraph of a statement praising Republican election victories “up and down the ticket.”
Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said he fully expects Trump to make good on his campaign pledge to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, to “send a signal that Arab terrorism doesn’t pay and to recognize that Jerusalem is holy to Jews and has never been holy to Muslims.”