Daily Alert

09 July 2008

The Role of Religion in Picking a President

Religious Jews support U.S. Sen. John McCain for president in much higher numbers than non-religious Jews, a poll found. - JTA

Published: 07/09/2008

Religious Jews support U.S. Sen. John McCain for president in much higher numbers than non-religious Jews, a poll found.

The 39 percent of U.S. Jews who said religion is important in their daily lives evenly split their support for the presumptive candidates in November -- Arizona's McCain for the Republicans and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democrats -- at 45 percent, according to a Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

For Jews who said religion is not important, however, McCain picked up only 26 percent to 68 percent for Obama.

For all Americans who say religion is important, McCain received the support of 50 percent to Obama's 40 percent. Those who said religion is not important backed Obama over McCain, 55 percent to 36 percent.

The percentage of Jews who said religion was important fell well below the overall national average. Nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed said religion is important to them, according to the poll.

Nearly 95,000 registered voters were interviewed as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking between March and June.

The speculation has been for some time that McCain will do better than the most recent Republican candidates for President and may well surpass Reagan's 39% of the Jewish vote in 1980.

The Gallup poll does not mention a growing Orthodox population as a factor nor is there any evidence that the polling methodology accounts for a larger Orthodox population. It would be greatly encouraging to find more than 39% of American Jews responding that "religion is important in their daily lives". This same body of Jews can fairly be called the most knowledgeable about Jewish matters, the most personally connected with Israel and to the chagrin of Eric Yoffie, the real "Jewish" majority. Those Jews whose daily lives are energized and occupied with Torah, davening, mitzvas, Israel, chesed, etc., are indeed the real Jewish majority as defined by "use" and participation. The other 61% who are not yet religious would be well advised to bind themselves to the real "Jewish" majority.

Now, we can have a conversation about what it means to be a Jew, however I have little patience for arguments that define Judaism as what Jews think vis a vis what is the halachic approach and a Torah true mind set. Judaism is clearly definable as a religion with law, faith, history, and most importantly a Divine and everlasting covenant which does not provide for options in belief and merger of secular politics into the requirements placed upon the Jew by the G-d of the universe.

Is there one value or set of values or ideas which leads to more religious people favoring McCain and Republicans in general and less religious people favoring B. Hussein Obama and Democrats in general?

Perhaps. Religion is built upon a general belief in a common set of ideas usually known as values which manifests itself as a "morality", a concrete code by which the righteous are defined as those who uphold that morality while those who are less consistent in upholding the morality code defined by degree of their decreasing observance in the code. This structure provides for a consistent approach to judgment for both good and bad.

For liberals who have adopted a code which permits and encourages a lack of a common set of values except that a common set of values cannot be universally applied, the morality code is not a viable approach, a barrier to free expression no matter how bizarre it's manifestation.

And while the statistics do not support that every religious person will favor McCain and every non-religious person will favor Obama, the recurring voting patterns over multiple elections for a number of years seems to extend credibility to the theory.

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