Why Jews Vote like Atheists

By Beinart, Peter | Newsweek, January 30, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Why Jews Vote like Atheists


Beinart, Peter, Newsweek


Byline: Peter Beinart

And what of the Jewish vote?

In American politics, religion doesn't matter nearly as much as religiosity. Take Rick Santorum, the darling of evangelical voters from Iowa to South Carolina. A few decades ago, the idea of evangelicals rallying behind a Catholic would have been inconceivable. Antagonism between the two denominations ran too deep. But today, unless you're a Muslim, or perhaps a Mormon, what type of faith you practice is politically irrelevant. All that matters is how fervently you practice it. The culture war is a battle between traditionalists and secularists of all faiths. It's not a battle between different religious groups but within them.

That's the key to understanding the political behavior of American Jews. Every four years, Republicans vow to use Israel to pry Jews from their nearly century-old allegiance to the Democratic Party. And every four years, they fail. The reason is that only about 10 percent of Jews actually vote on Israel (a country most American Jews have never visited).

In fact, most American Jews don't really vote as Jews at all. On many issues, in fact, they're indistinguishable from atheists. They vote as secularists. The same red-blue divide that cuts through the rest of America cuts through Jewish America too. The difference is that in the rest of America, the divide is roughly 50-50.

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