President-elect George Bush Wins Less Than a Third of Jewish Vote
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President-elect George Bush Wins Less Than a Third of Jewish Vote

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American Jews bucked the national trend Tuesday that swept George Herbert Walker Bush into office as 41st president of the United States.

As in past elections, Jews voted overwhelmingly Democratic, favoring Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen over the Republican ticket of Bush and Dan Quayle by more than a 2-1 margin.

Exit polling by ABC News found Jews favored Dukakis over Bush by 67 percent to 32 percent. The Washington Post reported that Dukakis claimed roughly seven out of 10 Jewish votes.

ABC also said Jewish voters in New York favored Dukakis by 69 percent, and by 74 percent in California.

In less scientific exit polling Tuesday, the American Jewish Congress found that Jewish voters favored the Democratic ticket over the Republican ticket by 77 percent to 23 percent. AJCongress volunteers queried 3,881 voters in 12 major cities.

Market Opinion Research in Detroit, a firm run by Bob Teeter, Bush’s chief pollster, put the Jewish vote at 69 percent to 31 percent for Dukakis. They polled more than 4,000 Jewish voters in six states.

But Bush gained the overwhelming support of Orthodox Jews, according to the Detroit firm. Among the 10 percent of those polled identifying themselves as Orthodox, 75 percent voted for Bush.

By contrast, 28 percent of Conservative Jewish respondents and 24 percent of Reform Jews voted for Bush.


Bush also did poorly among Jewish women. Only 20 percent of Jewish women over age 40 voted for Bush, compared to the 30 percent of the men in the same category. The breakdown for all Jewish women was not immediately available.

“We are very satisfied with those numbers,” said Mark Neuman, coordinator of Bush’s National Jewish Campaign Committee. “We had enormous obstacles to overcome, the main one being that most Jews are Democrats, to be this competitive and get a significant share of Democrats and independents to come over and vote for George Bush.”

At Bush headquarters in Houston, supporter Jack Stein, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that among Jewish Republicans there is “a feeling of satisfaction over the results of a long and difficult campaign.”

In a conciliatory statement on behalf of Dukakis’ National Jewish Leadership Council, Hyman Bookbinder congratulated Bush and pledged his colleagues’ support for the president-elect.

“He will get our praise and thanks when we feel he is right, but should be prepared to receive our criticism and advice when we feel he is wrong,” said Bookbinder, who served as special adviser to the Dukakis campaign.

In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Bookbinder said that Dukakis seemed to have done even better than Walter Mondale, who he said won between 65 and 68 percent of the Jewish vote in his losing contest with President Reagan in 1984. Other sources have put Jewish support for Mondale above 70 percent.


Republican efforts to woo Jews year focused on Jewish fears of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his forces’attempt to pass a pro-Palestinian platform at the Democratic National Convention.

According to the AJCongress poll, 38 percent of the Jewish Democrats, compared to 69 percent of Jewish Republicans, expressed concern over Jackson’s role in the Democratic Party.

But even more Jewish Democrats, 55 percent, said that the role of the religious right in the Republican Party influenced their vote.

Bush’s Jewish supporters feel comfortable that Reagan’s vice president will continue what has been perceived as a pro-Israel stance in the White House.

They point to a Republican party platform that outlines extensive military and economic cooperation between the United States and Israel, and a call for the repeal of the 1975 United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism.

The Republican Party platform opposes a Palestinian state and any U.S. negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But Bush has not ruled out any possibility that might be agreed upon in direct negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. That includes moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something he opposes until those negotiations take place.


No other president “has been so intricately involved in issues like Soviet Jewry, the rescue of Ethiopian Jews and the U.S.-Israel relations than George Bush,” said Neuman of the Bush campaign committee.

But Bush’s Jewish critics have said they do not trust his resolve on Israel, and point to a quote by a close aide that Bush lacks Reagan’s “gut feelings” toward Israel.

Bush has supported arms sales to Arab states, they say, and he suggested sanctions against Israel after the 1981 bombing of the Iraqinuclear reactor.

But according to Stein, who describes himself as a close friend of Bush for 18 years, the president-elect “understands Israel’s security needs and is determined that as an ally, America will remain strongly committed to safeguarding Israel, including her position in the United Nations.”

On the domestic front, Bush appears at odds with most Jews’ stance on issues involving the separation of church and state. He supports school prayer, tuition tax credits for private schooling and criminalizing abortion.

However, substantial portions of the Orthodox community agree with Bush on those issues, as their support demonstrated.

Vice President-elect Quayle also has been seen by Jews as a cause for concern. Quayle has objections to foreign aid on philosophical grounds and has supported Arab arms deals.

The strong Jewish support for Dukakis continues to contradict what some Jewish conservatives have predicted since 1980 would be a fundamental rightward shift in Jewish politics.

Still, Stein pointed out that while there have been no major shifts among older Jewish voters, there is a decided shift among younger Jews toward the Republican camp.

“The 30 to 34 percent (of Jews who vote Republican) now is a floor on which to build,” he said.

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