NEW YORK – A poll of American Jewish voters released by the J Street organization found that over three-quarters of them cast their ballot for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday, handing Republicans their worst performance with the community since 2008.
American Jews traditionally lean Democrat in elections at about 70 percent, but these figures suggest Jewish voters backed Biden over President Donald Trump by 77 to 21 percent – a 56-percentage point margin that significantly surpassed Hillary Clinton’s +45 point advantage in 2016.
The Election Night poll was conducted by GBAO Strategies for J Street between October 30 and November 3, and included interviews with 800 self-identified Jewish voters who cast their ballots on Election Day or prior to the day itself.
According to the data, Jewish voters also supported Democratic candidates over GOP candidates in congressional races by 78 percent to 21 percent.
When asked their views on the overall direction the United States is headed, 85 percent of respondents said it was on the wrong track and only 15 percent believed the country is going in the right direction. Seventy-seven percent of respondents also said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of his job, while 23 percent approved.
More than half of the people surveyed – 54 percent – said the coronavirus pandemic was their top issue in this year’s presidential race; 26 percent mentioned climate change; and 25 percent cited health care as their priority. Other issues included the economy, the Supreme Court, police reform, and racial justice and national security.
Only 5 percent of Jewish voters participating in the survey mentioned Israel as the issue most important to them. One percent said Iran was their main concern. When asked whether they would like to see the United States reenter the Iran nuclear deal signed under then-President Barack Obama, the vast majority, 74 percent, said they would, while 26 percent said they’d oppose it.
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Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 91 percent of respondents said they’d support the United States playing an active role in helping the parties try to resolve it. In addition, 72 percent of Jewish voters still believed a two-state solution would be the best option.
The overwhelming majority of participants – 89 percent – opposed the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
“While Trump touted an ‘exodus’ of Jews from the Democratic Party, the only exodus we saw here was Republicans losing a significant chunk of their already small number of Jewish supporters,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said.
“A strategy built on the myth that Jewish votes can be won with hawkish Israel policy is bound to fail when over and over again American Jews have demonstrated that they are among the most progressive voters in the American electorate, with views on Israel that are pro-diplomacy and pro-peace,” he added.
According to pollster Jim Gerstein, “The 2020 election reinforces long-standing dynamics in the Jewish community, and potentially locks in these dynamics in the aftermath of a president and Republican enablers who Jews found abhorrent.”
With Americans waking up Wednesday morning to find some battleground states still in play, voters in the Jewish community were on tenterhooks.
“After a mostly sleepless night, I am still cautiously optimistic about a Biden win,” Pittsburgh resident Meryl Ainsman, 66, told Haaretz by email. “As the early votes continue to be counted this morning, all of the states that are still in play are moving toward Biden,” she added. Her home state of Pennsylvania was among them. Ainsman noted that because the Republican-majority State Senate mandated that early votes could not be counted early in her state, the count of mail-in ballots has been very slow.
“Assuming a Biden win, hopefully, it is still very concerning how divided we are as a country,” Ainsman wrote. “We must come together as a people if we hope to move forward and flourish as a nation and a leader in the world. We need a uniter and not a divider to get us there.”
New York City, meanwhile, may have had its highest ever turnout for a presidential election, with some 2.3 million people voting so far. One of them, progressive Jewish activist Sophie Ellman Golan, sounded more relaxed than others as she told Haaretz: “Everything is playing out pretty much as anticipated, and it’s pretty clear that Trump and the right are starting to panic because they know that as the votes get counted, their loss becomes more apparent.”
In Texas, where Trump prevailed after a relatively close race, Galveston resident and Democrat supporter Jayson Levy, 60, said he was “surprised by the results so far,” given the high turnout.
“In Texas and elsewhere, I believe supporters of President Trump saw ‘promises kept’ to include lower taxes and less regulation. Also, many religious voters saw abortion as a life and death issue for the unborn,” he said, adding: “There are still votes to be counted, and I remain hopeful.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.