For those of us in the business of talking about political trends for a living, the Pew Research Center’s latest “deep dive” into the politics of demography is a must-bookmark post.
Pew looked into the polling data from 1992 to today and found that the Republican Party is in no better shape than it was 23 years ago. Overall, the number of respondents who identify as Republican is down 5 points since 1992 while Democratic identification is virtually static. When those who lean one way or the other are included, 39 percent self-identify as Republicans and 48 percent as Democratic – a slight correction favoring Republicans from the nadir of GOP self-identification in 2008.
Demographically, the conventional wisdom which holds that the GOP is behind the eight ball when it comes to appealing to minority groups is confirmed by Pew’s data. African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics all continue to self-identify as Democrats more than Republicans by over 30 points. Women with post-graduate degrees and the religiously unaffiliated also identify most strongly as Democrats.
On the GOP side, whites, religiously affiliated whites — Mormons, evangelicals, and protestants — and southerners demonstrate the strongest pro-Republican tilt. Generationally, the GOP enjoys a 4-point advantage among those age 69 to 86 while Democrats have a 16-point advantage with millennials age 18 to 33.
One finding in Pew’s release that might discourage Republicans most is the apparent fact that American Jews have grown only marginally more conservative as the Democratic Party has become more hostile toward Israel. “Jews continue to mostly align with the Democratic Party,” Pew’s release read. “Nearly twice as many Jews identify as Democrats or lean Democratic (61%) than identify as Republicans or lean Republican (31%).” In 1992, 23 percent of Jewish respondents identified as pro-GOP while 65 percent said they were Democrats.
This is consistent with Gallup’s findings from earlier this year which discovered that more American Jews are identifying as Republicans, but the vast majority of U.S.-based Jews continue to identify as Democrats. “More Jews identify as Republicans, even as 6 in 10 still back the Democratic Party, according to a Gallup poll,” NJ.com reported. “The survey showed 29 percent of American Jews identifying as Republican, an increase from 22 percent in 2008.”
Some have foreseen that President Obama’s unveiled antagonism toward Israeli interests would create a stark choice for American Jews that would compel them to take a second look at the GOP. And while that trend is observable and accelerating, most American Jews continue to land firmly in the Democratic camp. The center-left Israeli news outlet Haaretz published an op-ed from the columnist Seth Lipsky warned that this trend could hasten in the coming months as the presidential election cycle ramps up.
“Some of this is demographic, as the Orthodox community grows faster than the more liberal, secular Jewish population,” he wrote. “Some is substantive, which is the danger the Democrats face in the presidential election next year.”
“The majority of Jews are still liberal,” he continued. “But what they expected when President Obama vowed he’d have Israel’s back was not the kind of scorn he’s been showing for Israel and the kind of warmth he has been exuding for the Iranian mullahs.”
Demographic party affiliations are sticky and do not shift overnight. 2016 will not be the first presidential election in which American Jews abandon the Democratic Party, but change is in the air. Democrats can only continue to take the Jewish vote for granted at their own peril.