Recent tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama have caused some confusion about the general political leanings of American Jews. In a recent interview with BuzzFeed, conservative firebrand and House Republican Steve King claimed that many liberal Jews "no longer have ties to Israel," adding that "those who regularly go to synagogue" don't align themselves with the political left.
Now would be a good time to look at the actual data on Jewish political beliefs—which shows that American Jews are indeed liberal, and have been for quite some time.
"The network of Jewish campaign consultants and fund-raisers that plays such a key role in national Democratic politics has no parallel on the Republican side," wrote journalist Jonathan Jeremy Goldberg in his book Jewish Power.
On Capitol Hill, Jews are arguably the most over-represented group in Congress, comprising about five percent of the House of Representatives, but just two percent of the overall population, according to a Gallup poll released earlier this year. With the exception of newly elected Republican Lee Zeldin, the 28 representatives in Congress are all Democrats.
"Jews are among the most strongly liberal, Democratic groups in U.S. politics. There are more than twice as many self-identified Jewish liberals as conservatives."
It’s no surprise, then, that pro-Israeli lobbying groups have given more to Democrats than Republicans for every year on record (since 1990), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
That’s an assertion that the Pew Center for Research backs up too. "Jews are among the most strongly liberal, Democratic groups in U.S. politics. There are more than twice as many self-identified Jewish liberals as conservatives," a comprehensive Pew report on Jewish values concluded in 2013.
At this point, we can reasonably deduce that Representatives Steve King's views on American Jews could not be more wrong; American Jews are overwhelming liberal.
But what about very religious Jews? Here, the picture gets more nuanced. It's true that religiosity and conservatism are more intertwined, as 42 percent of the highly religious Jews identified as Republicans. That's a more impressive number, but it still trails left-leaners, who comprise 46 percent of the highly religious Jews surveyed.
Interestingly, that 2013 Pew poll finds that Orthodox Jews, a sect of Judaism that tends to agree with conservative Christians on social issues like same-sex marriage, are about 57 percent Republican. So Congressman King's statement that Jews are conservative because of their views on Israel alone is a stretch; social beliefs likely play a more important role.
Is Obama's strained relationship with Israel's leaders changing how American Jews identify? Since 2008, there's been a steady seven-percent uptick in Jews identifying as Republican. But, as Gallup notes, that trend is mirrored in the wider population, as the entire American polis shifts toward conservatism. The longer politicians stay in power, the less we tend to like them and, therefore, the more we tend to favor the opposing side.
So what is perceived as Jewish angst against Obama is really the perpetual disappointment Americans tend to feel for all politicians, whose promises of Mideast peace rarely match reality.