Jews and tonight’s debate

Tonight’s debate is unlikely to sway Jewish voters or even directly appeal to them, a leading expert on American Jewish voting trends told In the Moment.

“Partisans come to a debate with preset expectations and most Jews are partisans,” said Kenneth Wald, a political science professor at the University of Florida and co-author of Jewish American Voting Behavior 1972-2008: Just the Facts, a recent survey of Jewish voting trends.  “If there’s a population both candidates have in mind, it’s Catholics, not Jews. Catholics are the swing voters of late.”

The debate, which will focus on domestic issues and is slated to start at 9 Eastern tonight, will not touch on foreign policy issues such as Israel or Iran—a key concern for many Jewish voters. Issues such as domestic terrorism may come into play, however.

Jewish American Voting Behavior 1972-2008: Just the Facts was published in July by the Solomon Project, a non-partisan group that aims to educate American Jews about civic involvement. Among other findings, the study revealed that American Jews remain much more Democratic and liberal than the rest of the electorate—contrary to the claim that an increasing number are fleeing to the Republican Party. It also found that President Obama captured 74 percent of the national Jewish vote, slightly lower than the widely cited 78 percent that was originally reported.

Wald also said that little mention will be made of Romney’s Mormonism, but that the former governor’s religion does not concern most Jews. “Governor Romney doesn’t raise the hackles of Jews in the way that Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin did,” he said.

Still, he said to look out for a number of issues that continue to concern many Jewish voters, among them the economy, Medicare, social security and abortion rights.


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