WASHINGTON -- Just as presidential elections come every four years, so too come the quadrennial speculations that Jewish voters will finally abandon the Democrats and vote Republican. But if Mitt Romney is counting on American Jews to help send him to the White House this November, he will have to buck a well-established trend, according to a new analysis of exit poll data of Jewish voting patterns that indicates most will stay with the Democratic Party.
The report by the nonpartisan Solomon Project, titled "Jewish American Voting Behavior 1972-2008: Just the Facts," found that Jews have remained much more liberal and more attached to the Democratic Party than the rest of the country.
While socially conservative Orthodox Jews have trended toward the red column and the GOP presidential field has been warmly received by the Israel-centric Republican Jewish Coalition, the analysis confirms that most American Jews not only have remained Democrats but have voted with the party more in recent years. According to the report, in the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans attracted between 31 percent and 37 percent of the Jewish vote. Since then, however, the GOP has attracted only 15 percent to 23 percent, with Democratic congressional candidates winning even higher shares of the Jewish electorate.
"Every presidential election we hear predictions that Jewish voters are becoming more Republican," said University of Florida political scientist Kenneth Wald, a co-author of the report and contributor to the book, "Jews in American Politics." "This analysis shows that, election after election, those predictions have yet to be proven true. I don't expect the election between President Obama and Governor Romney to be any different."
Critics are likely to note that Wald's collaborators on the report are Democratic strategist Mark Mellman and Aaron Strauss, director of targeting for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But while the analysis suggests that Jewish voters still lean left -- in 2008, 45 percent called themselves liberals, compared to 12 percent who identified as conservative -- it also showed that Obama won a slightly smaller percentage of the Jewish vote than was previously estimated immediately after the election.
The researchers recalculated the Jewish vote four years ago using state exit polls in addition to national ones. The result: President Obama received 74 percent of the Jewish vote, not the 78 percent widely cited by political analysts. That's lower than any recent Democratic presidential contender since Michael Dukakis in 1984.
CORRECTION: This article has been changed to show that political scientist Kenneth Wald is a contributor to the book, "Jews in American Politics," and not a co-author of the book.