The Facts About Trump and Jews

This week, the Jewish Electoral Institute, a group founded by individuals long associated with Democratic and Jewish, pro-Israel causes, published a national poll of some 1,000 Jewish voters.

The results confirm what most observers might have otherwise concluded---Jews dislike Donald Trump in overwhelming numbers, they feel less secure vis a vis anti-Semitism than they did a few years ago and that issues related to Israel are not high on the list of priorities when it comes to the 2020 elections.

Jews “overwhelmingly oppose President Trump generally and disapprove of his handling of a wide range of domestic policy issues.” The findings are that 71% of the Jewish public disapproves of Trump’s job performance while only 29% approve. This compares with the general public that disapproves of Trump at 53% level (that is the Real Clear Politics average of polls as of May 22) and approves of him at a 42% level. Jews are not fond of how Donald Trump is handling his job or of him (70% unfavorable).

To compound Trump’s problems in the Jewish community, respondents were asked whether “Trump is at least partially responsible for the targeted attacks on synagogues, including those in Pittsburgh and Poway.” The response was staggering----59% of those polled answered affirmatively that Trump bore some responsibility for those tragic, anti-Semitic incidents. That datum can be paired with the fact that 73% of those polled felt less secure than they did two years ago.

Trumpkins might console themselves by imagining that Trump will yet win over Jews by evidencing greater support for Israel and Bibi Netanyahu. But if this poll is accurate, that won’t make much difference. The poll revealed that even though the Jewish community remains “strongly pro-Israel” it is at “the bottom of the list of 16 policy priorities of Jewish voters” in determining which candidate to support in 2020.

That latter datum may be the most interesting fact in the poll. It seems paradoxical that high levels of support for Israel could be paired with its seeming irrelevance to next year’s presidential elections, but it may relate to Trump’s showy display of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu while simultaneously being so hostile to historical Jewish values.

It may come down to the notion of “cognitive dissonance”----the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

A majority of Jews find Trump’s views on a myriad of issues unacceptable yet realize that he professes strong support for Israel. To accommodate those seemingly irreconcilable positions, they affirm their support for Israel yet lower its importance for the next election. The rejection of Trump, despite his blandishments regarding the Jewish state, makes sense.

Israel is important, but so are historically salient issues that have deep roots in the community (e.g. healthcare, Social Security and Medicare, gun safety laws, extremism, combatting terrorism, etc.).

The implications of this study are significant.

For the Trump advocates in the Jewish community it may offer a much delayed epiphany---despite his protestations of love for Israel and its prime minister and despite his moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem---Jews are not a single issue monolith and ardor for the Jewish state will not change the historic and humanistic values of the Jewish electorate.

It may also have real implications for the leadership of major Jewish organizations (from the local Jewish Federations to the Wiesenthal Center and other national Jewish groups) who seem convinced that a significant percentage of their constituencies are sympathetic to Trump and so avoid criticizing him—even for his most egregious acts (i.e. family separations, targeting Muslims and Mexican immigrants, etc.).

It’s likely that some of these organizations major supporters are trumpkins and their fear of alienating contributors is real; but for their broad constituencies, there is no doubt that they remain overwhelmingly unsympathetic to Trump and his policy positions and the leaders ought to take note.

In the not too distant future, they will be held to account for their silence in the face of bigotry, demagoguery and extremism.

For this writer, it is reassuring that support and admiration for the Jewish state do not blind the vast majority of the American Jewish community to the toxic politics of this most divisive and destructive president in our history.