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Jewish vote for Republican presidential candidate biggest in decades

Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential race, the close results and possibility of a split Congress indicate that the nation remains deeply divided politically and socially. The Jewish community is no exception.

Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, told JNS that “we knew already before the election that the Jewish community was deeply divided.”

“That divide is not 50/50, the way the nation is; it is one where significant parts of our people have profoundly different worldviews and profoundly different conceptions of how Jewish interests and values inform our civic engagement,” he said.

Indeed, exit polls conducted during the election indicate that President Donald Trump received the highest percent of the Jewish vote for a Republican in decades, while former Vice President Joe Biden came in lower for a Democratic candidate in recent years.

Trump received 30.5 percent of the Jewish vote, while Biden got 60.6 percent, according to a Republican Jewish Coalition survey conducted by Basswood Research and McLaughlin & Associates.

Florida Jewish voters helped Trump

In the crucial state of Florida, Jewish voters appeared to be critical to Trump’s winning the state’s 29 electoral votes, according to the AP exit poll in the state, with 43 percent of Jews voting for Trump compared to 56 percent for Biden.

The 43 percent mark represented the highest percentage of the Jewish vote in the Sunshine State for a Republican presidential candidate, according to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which spent more than $5 million targeting Jewish voters in Florida on Trump’s behalf.

In other key battlegrounds such as Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Jewish voters supported Trump, with 72 percent for Biden; in Nevada, it was 22 percent for Trump and 76 percent for Biden. In Georgia, the vote was split with 49 percent each; in Arizona, 68 percent went for Biden and 29 percent went for Trump; the AP polls found.

Jewish vote totals for the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio were not yet available.

Nonetheless, experts stayed wary of drawing too many conclusions about the Jewish vote from the current exit polls and surveys.

“I would urge some caution when looking at the exit polls at this point in time,” Inside Elections reporter and analyst Jacob Rubashkin told JNS. “They can be notoriously wonky, and especially so when they spit out a somewhat unexpected result like this one.”

“That goes double or triple for a small subsample like Jewish voters in Florida, which account for just 5 percent of the AP survey,” he continued. “The unfortunate reality is that it will be quite some time before we have truly actionable data on the demographic breakdowns of the election. And, of course, most states haven’t even finished counting votes yet—Florida included, I believe.”

Rubashkin noted that while “Trump clearly was making a late push for older Jewish voters with his series of Israel-related foreign-policy moves over the last few months,” he expressed prudence when it comes to “reading into any data past the topline vote numbers until we have more information.”

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Political strategist Jeff Ballabon echoed Rubashkin, telling JNS that while Trump “is the most pro-Jewish president in history and, despite relentless political and media slanders against him,” he is far more popular among Jews than any GOP presidential candidate in decades, and that the aforementioned polls “are flawed and undercount Orthodox Jews, most significantly haredim.”

“Jewish organizational polls often make use of mailing lists that skew away from Orthodox and use outdated population data for adjustments,” he said.

Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and author of American Judaism, told JNS that the J Street poll “raises questions,” citing just 10 percent and 2 percent of respondents identifying as members of the Orthodox and Reconstructionist denominations, respectively. (In the Jewish denomination breakdown of the J Street survey, 36 percent of respondents identified themselves as Reform, 30 percent of no particular denomination, 20 percent Conservative, 1 percent as “Other” and 1 percent as “Not sure.”)

Regardless, these polls indicate “that ‘bedrock Republicanism’ among Jews is more than two-and-half times what it was years ago,” said Sarna, citing that U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, received 90% of the Jewish vote, whereas his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater—at the time, not a particularly popular candidate—got just 10%.

–By Jackson Richman and Sean Savage, JNS