Ben Shapiro: Why Do Jews Vote Leftist?

Ben Shapiro takes a clear-eyed look at why American Jews vote with the anti-Israel Left.


In 2008, American Jews voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. Even though Obama had spent large segments of his prior life hobnobbing with vicious anti-Semites like Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi, even though he had staffed his campaign with anti-Semites ranging from Zbigniew Brzezinski to Robert Malley, Jews turned out in droves for him. Sarah Silverman harangued young Jews into telling their grandparents that they were racist if they didn’t vote for him; Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama’s designated court Jew – a role he has never relinquished -- informed Jews that they were racist if they feared Senator Obama’s positions on Israel.

American Jews voted 78 percent for Obama in 2008.

After he was elected, Obama proceeded to undermine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, force Netanyahu to humiliate himself before thugs like the Turkish government, publicly condemn Israel’s defense of itself during the Gaza war against Hamas while funding the Hamas unity government, repeatedly leak vital national security information that would have allowed Israel to strike Iran, and sign a deal with Iran that essentially foreclosed any possibility of Western attempts to stop Iran from going nuclear. 

American Jews voted 69 percent for Obama in 2012.

The question I’m most often asked, thanks to my kippa, is why Jews vote leftist. The answer is simple: the vast majority of Jews don’t care about Judaism or Israel. They care about secular leftism, which is their religion.

The polls show this. American Jews are the least religious religious group in America. Only 41 percent say that their religion is important to them in their daily life, according to a December 2012 Gallup poll; only 34 percent said they attend religious services at least monthly, compared with 65 percent who said they attended religious services seldom or never. 22 percent of Jews say they have no religion. According to an October 2013 Pew poll, just 38 percent of Jews say their Jewish identity has anything to do with Jewish religion at all. Just 10 percent of Jews identify as Orthodox – people who consider themselves fulfilling the commandments of the Torah.

As for Israel, just 30 percent of Jews say they are very attached to Israel. Only 43 percent of Jews have ever been to Israel. And here’s an amazing statistic: just 40 percent of Jews believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people. 27 percent say God didn’t, another 5 percent said they don’t know, and 28 percent said they didn’t believe in God at all.

So, what does being Jewish mean to most Jews? Again, according to the Pew poll, 73 percent of Jews said it was about remembering the Holocaust. Just 19 percent said it was about observing Jewish law, and only 28 percent said it was about being part of a Jewish community. Jews, in other words, are not religious. They are secular leftists who don’t want to be labeled white people because they like being diverse and being able to enjoy the in-jokes in Woody Allen films.

So why is it a surprise that most Jews vote leftists? Most Jews aren’t Jewish in any real sense beyond ethnic identification. They have nothing to do with Torah, the five books of Moses. They have nothing to do with the ethical system posited by Biblical Judaism. They have nothing to do with the mitzvot, the commandments. They have nothing to do with Israel. Polling Jews on their politics is like polling anyone born Catholic on their politics: you’re going to skew far to the left by including lapsed Catholics. And most Jews are lapsed Jews, or never-knew-anything-in-the-first-place Jews.

The Torah is not a left-wing document. It opposes abortion and opposes same-sex marriage. It does not believe in a grand welfare system, but in private charity. It dictates belief that Israel was promised to the Jews, and that the Jews have a responsibility to live ethically according to a set of specific behavioral guidelines. Judaism is conservative, in the modern parlance. Those who pretend to back both Judaism and left-wing values are betraying Torah Judaism. Which is why while Jews vote three to one for Democrats, Orthodox Jews vote nearly two to one for Republicans.

Now, there are older Jews who vote leftist because they remember the bad old days of country club Republicans who rejected them from the golf course, and don’t realize that things have changed rather dramatically. There are older Jews who vote leftist because they remember the legacy of European Christianity that preyed on Jews for centuries, and don’t realize that American Christians are Jews’ best friends, not the American left that stands by President Obama.

But by and large, most Jews vote leftist because they are upper middle class agnostics with above-average levels of post-graduate education who believe that religion is a great ill, that Biblical morality is intolerant and vicious, and that Judaism itself is passé.

Jews who care about actual Judaism don’t vote leftist. And those who prioritize leftism don’t vote Jewish.