Perry is Toxic to Jewish Voters

Written by Stephen Richer on Monday September 19, 2011

President Obama, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and Ed Koch are all doing their best to push Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party. These efforts are having effect. In NY-9, Jewish voters turned from the Jewish Democratic candidate to hand the victory to his Catholic Republican rival Bob Turner. Only days later, a Gallup poll put Jewish disapproval of Obama at 40 percent.

But these efforts can swiftly be reversed by one man: Rick Perry.

If the Republicans nominate Rick Perry as their presidential nominee, expect at least 75 percent of Jews to vote for President Obama in 2012, despite their concerns for Israel. As Jonthan Tobin writes at Commentary’s blog, “Most American Jews fear evangelicals more than Hamas or Hezbollah.” But it’s not just Perry's devout Christianity per se that could bother Jews; it’s also the social policy ramifications of this religious outlook. As of late, Perry has become much more absolutist and outspoken about social policies, setting off alarms in the heads of many Jewish voters.

Gay Marriage

Start with gay marriage. Perry recently reversed his position from support of states’ rights (“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.”) to supporting a federal ban (“I am for the federal marriage amendment [banning gay marriage]. And that’s about as sharp a point as I could put on it”). In contrast, 67 percent of Jews fully support gay marriage, and 78 percent of Jews opposed California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.


Abortion is another important issue to Jewish voters, and according to a 2000 study, 88 percent of Jews are pro-choice. Perry, however, supports a federal amendment against abortion. According to Perry spokesperson Katherine Cesinger, “The governor has long supported overturning Roe v. Wade, and would support amending the U.S. Constitution … to protect innocent life.”


Jews are also passionately secular, only 16 percent go to synagogue at least once a month. It’s not surprising then that Jews are overwhelmingly opposed to any sort of commingling of religion and state. Rick Perry’s public group prayer session bothered even conservative Jewish pundit Jennifer Rubin, “His use of public office to promote the Christian event, was, to me, inappropriate … Would he do this in the Oval Office?” Even more Jews raised eyebrows when Perry claimed he had “been called” to run for President.

Jews, like all other Americans, will probably put the economy and jobs at the top of their voting issues. But Israel and social issues are also likely to factor in. If Perry is named the Republican candidate in 2012, independent and moderate Jews will be left in a hard place: either vote for the devil you know (Obama), or the devil you don’t (Perry). Unfortunately for Perry, most people choose, as the maxim goes, the devil they know.