Faith

Where the American Jewish Community Stands on Trump

The division among the four major branches of Judaism is stark — there's a 76 percent difference in how they view the president

A new survey of U.S. Jews offers a breakdown of the Jewish vote in favor of President Donald Trump and suggests those divisions — among the major streams of Judaism — remain fairly constant nine months later.

Though the majority of Jews did not vote for Trump, exit polls showed, those who identify as Orthodox were the most supportive of Trump on Election Day and continue to give him high marks.

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Fifty-four percent of Orthodox Jews say they voted for Trump, according a new survey by the American Jewish Committee, or AJC. That was well above 24 percent of Conservative Jews, 10 percent of Reform Jews, 8 percent of Reconstructionist Jews, and 14 percent of respondents who identify themselves as “just Jewish.”

Conversely, Clinton garnered 13 percent of the Orthodox vote, 60 percent of Conservative Jewish vote, 78 percent of the Reform vote, and 89 percent of Reconstructionist vote.

The survey also shows that when it comes to politics, American Jews don’t differ much from the rest of the American public: Those who voted for President Trump still support him; the far larger contingent that opposed him still opposes him.

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The poll found that overall 77 percent of respondents had an “unfavorable” view of the president, while 21 percent had a “favorable” view of the way he is governing. One percent said they were “not sure.”

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That suggests a wide and growing polarization between Orthodox Jews who comprise a minority of the U.S. Jewish population and tend to skew conservative, and the far larger Reform and Conservative movements — as well as the small but influential Reconstructionist movement — that comprise the majority of U.S. Jews and skew liberal.

Just about the only issue on which the two groups appear united is their belief that anti-Semitism is growing.

Eighty-four percent of respondents said anti-Semitism is a problem, and 41 percent said it is a “very serious” problem, up from the 2016 survey in which 73 percent considered it a problem and only 21 percent viewed it as a “very serious” problem.

In the 2016 election, 71 percent of Jews voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton and 24 percent voted for Republican Trump, according to exit polls. In the AJC poll, 64 percent said they voted for Clinton and 18 percent said they voted for Trump.

Support for Trump among Orthodox Jews on Election Day does not seem to have waned, according to the AJC poll, even after Trump infuriated many American Jews with his response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month; 71 percent of Orthodox respondents viewed Trump’s performance favorably.

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Among non-Orthodox Jews, those numbers were nearly reversed: 73 percent of Conservative Jews, 88 percent of Reform Jews, and 92 percent of Reconstructionist Jews view Trump’s performance unfavorably.

“Attitudes towards the president, both pro and con, have remained largely static since Election Day, and within the Jewish community the discrepancy between the Orthodox and other Jewish denominations on most questions is pronounced,” said David Harris, CEO of the AJC.

“It’s almost two Jewish universes living within the boundaries of the U.S., with two very different world views.”

The annual survey of 1,000 respondents conducted August 10-28, has been a regular feature of the AJC’s work for decades. The most recent poll was conducted by the research firm SSRS and has a margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

“It’s almost two Jewish universes living within the boundaries of the United States, with two very different world views,” said Harris.

He added: “I think it’s very striking, and insofar as the demographic trend in the United States is toward a large Orthodox population, this is something for American Jews and American Jewish organizations to be giving much more thought to. Organizations including our own, the AJC, need to come to terms with the meaning of that big split.”

This article originally appeared in Religion News Service.

(photo credit, homepage image: diluvi, Flickr)

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