Samuel J. Abrams
November 4, 2019
Another Election Day is upon us, which means that countless American Jews are heading to voting booths across the country — to vote for Democrats. It’s certainly not news that Jews are a politically liberal group with deep concerns about social justice. Hundreds of books, columns, polls, and surveys have firmly established that American Jews have long been an ideologically left of center group on the American scene, not to mention politically active supporters of Democrats.
What is newsworthy, though, is that the Trump Presidency, during which the American embassy was moved to Jerusalem, has coincided with American Jews drifting leftward — indeed, the furthest left they have positioned themselves in recent history.
The American Jewish Committee has been regularly measuring the ideological leanings of the American Jewish community since 1997. The data shows that liberal identifiers — those who lean to the left all the way to avowed liberals — have always been the plurality over the past two decades. 45% of the Jewish community identifies as being “left” on average, 32% identify as moderate, and the remaining 23% identify as conservative to some degree.
While the data shows American Jews are left of center in general, it is important to remember that for the bulk of the past two decades, only a plurality — and not a majority — of American Jews have historically identified as liberal.
By 2019, however, a majority of American Jews identified as liberal, and the general ideological trend has moved dramatically.
Looking at the past two decades, the proportion of conservative Jews has moved a few points up and down in the mid-20 percentile range but essentially remained stable for the past 22 years. Moderates and liberals were also fairly stable with moderates hovering around the low 30% range and liberals around the mid 40% range from 1997 through 2015.
By 2016, the trends abruptly changed. The percentage of moderates dropped 12 points and the figure has remained in the low 20s since. Concurrently, the percentage of liberals shot up sharply and has remained significantly higher such that in 2015, 45% of American Jews identified as being on the left and by 2019, that figure was 56% — an 11 point increase.
The only other time a majority of Jews identified as so overwhelmingly liberal was briefly in 2008 when President Barack Obama was running for President — but that was only a blip.
Today, a majority of Jews are consistently identifying as liberal. They have done so since 2016 and they have moved from the moderate camp into the liberal camp.