Young Voters Speak Out: Each day, RR.com will spotlight politically minded youth writers from throughout the U.S. speaking their minds on Election 2012. First-time voters, student journalists and new graduates will debate the Obama vs. Romney race to the White House. Young Democrats, Republicans and ‘Undecided’ Americans are eager to play politics and choose the next Commander & Chief.
Read Samantha Schoenfeld's thoughts from a left-leaning perspective:
Every Vote Counts
Minority voting blocs are increasingly important in this year's tight presidential election race and despite making up less than four percent of the electorate, candidates often pander to the Jewish vote. The candidates are engaging groups that may not affect the final tally, but will show their commitment to all citizens. Governor Romney embarrassed himself in a speech to the NAACP convention knowing he won't win the black vote. President Obama used an executive order to grant work permits to some undocumented immigrants -- even though he consistently leads with Latino voters -- in a move widely considered an assurance of his dedication to immigration reform.
Small but Powerful
But though Latinos and African Americans are both huge minority groups that can sway the election, Jewish rhetoric consistently remains on the lips of candidates because as Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, says on his website, "America has no better friend in the Middle East than the nation of Israel a valuable ally against Islamic extremism and terrorism." They may be one of the United States best friends, but why butter up such a small group?
The American Jewish population is the wealthiest (46 percent make $100,000+) and second-most educated voting bloc, and they often donate tons to campaigns. Some major players historically include Paul Lehman, Marcus Goldman, and Ben Bernanke, current Chairman of the Federal Reserve. So Jewish support matters even if the vote itself doesn't.
The Mind of the Jewish Voter
I come from a New York City suburb where over 50 percent of the population is Jewish, the majority of which is Reform and secularized. From experience, I can honestly say the issues that matter to this (predominant) sect of American Jews matches what polls by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life have reported.
Engaged, Opinionated and Liberal
Only four percent of Jewish voters say religion affects their political views. Despite their overall wealth, they're much likelier to vote based on personal experiences, the media, and their education. Jews are the voting bloc that most follows government and politics (68 percent), and many have strong views on social issues, including gay marriage (79 percent support), which is evidenced by the fact that all three current openly gay Congressmen -- Barney Frank, Jared Polis, and Daniel Cicilline -- are Jewish. Other important issues include abortion rights (84 percent support), environmental protection (77 percent support), and marijuana decriminalization (86 percent).
Democrats at Heart
Although there has been an uptick of Republican Jewish voters (disregarding Orthodox sects, who have always leaned conservative and Republican), they still are predominately Democrats, with President Obama snagging 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. A panel of 10 Israeli foreign policy experts released their opinions on the matter after Romney's visit to Israel last month, and have decided that Obama is better for Jewish voters' interests and Israel, mainly because they feel he is more likely to attack Iran if peace negotiations go south. Many say that Romney is on better terms with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu -- as evidenced by Romney's recent trip to Israel -- but many don't like that Romney's entire visit felt political, instead of based on what he'll do for voters. He just wanted campaign cash, and it was obvious. Also, Romney and Paul Ryan want to cut Medicare funding significantly, which may kill them in Florida, where many retired people -- especially northeastern Jews -- live. So despite Romney's new best friend, it doesn't look like his trip will matter come November 6.