If you listen to President Trump or his mouthpieces in conservative media, you would think the country is tilting pro-life and that Jews who vote Democratic don’t care about Israel. Spoiler alert: Both are wrong. Trump’s conclusions about the electorate seek to soothe his fragile ego, discount rampant criticism, and cast his opponents as isolated and ill-intentioned.
Let’s take the abortion issue first. Pew Research has released a poll finding that “a majority of Americans (61%) continue to say that abortion should be legal in all (27%) or most (34%) cases. A smaller share of the public (38%) says abortion should be illegal in all (12%) or most cases (26%).” And contrary to Trump’s efforts to stack the Supreme Court with critics of Roe v. Wade, the public rather likes the way things have stood for 45 years or so: “Seven-in-ten say they do not want to see the Roe v. Wade decision completely overturned; 28% say they would like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn the 1973 decision,” Pew found. “Consistent with these views, a majority of Americans say their greater concern is that some states are making it too difficult (59%) rather than too easy (39%) for people to be able to get an abortion.”
There certainly is a deep partisan divide, but even among Republicans, efforts to squash abortion rights and access face significant opposition:
Among Republicans and Republican leaners, significantly more say abortion should be illegal (62%) than legal (36%) in all or most cases. Republicans are deeply split on this question by ideology: 77% of conservative Republicans say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases; just 22% say it should be legal. By contrast, 57% of moderate and liberal Republicans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with a smaller share (41%) who say it should be illegal.
And among religious groups, “A majority of white mainline Protestants (60%) and black Protestants (64%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. By contrast, 77% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Among Catholics, more say abortion should be legal (56%) than illegal (42%) in all or most cases.”
Unlike partisanship, religion, age and race, gender is not a factor in pro-life/pro-choice attitudes. Thirty-eight percent of men and women want abortion illegal in all or most cases, while 61 percent of men and 60 percent of women feel the opposite. (This should underscore that women overwhelmingly favor Democrats for reasons that may have nothing to do with abortion.)
If Republicans think doubling down on abortion opposition and making abortions illegal or impossible to obtain in some states is a political winner, they might reconsider. Voters who favor this stance — e.g., evangelicals in the Deep South — have been voting Republican for decades; it’s everyone else who will decide the election. And judging from the numbers, anti-abortion extremism isn’t going to help Republicans’ electoral position.
Moving over to Israel, Trump infamously declared that an American Jew who votes for Democrats shows "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” This grotesquely anti-Semitic view (that Jews prioritize Israel and should be loyal to Israel) is, unsurprisingly, entirely wrong.
Jews have, for decades, voted Democratic, and in its recent poll, Gallup finds “no evidence that this has changed significantly during the Trump administration so far.” Dreams of an “exodus” from the Democratic Party bandied about by Republicans shows, if you will, “a total lack of knowledge.” Trump got only 23 percent of the Jewish vote; only 29 percent approve of his performance. American Jews remain strongly attached to Israel, Democrats and Republicans alike. A Gallup poll in March found that “nine in 10 American Jews are more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians. (That compares to about six in 10 of all Americans.)” Moreover, “95% of Jews have favorable views of Israel, while 10% have favorable views of the Palestinian Authority — significantly more pro-Israel than the overall national averages of 71% favorable views of Israel and 21% favorable views of the Palestinian Authority.”
In 2013, Pew found, “76% of Jews (identified by religion) said they were at least somewhat emotionally attached to Israel. In addition, almost half said that caring about Israel is an essential part of being Jewish (with most of the rest saying it is important although not essential) and nearly half reported that they had personally traveled to Israel.”
The mistake here is assuming that Jews vote primarily or exclusively based on the president’s views of Israel, and that when they vote for Democrats they are signaling a lack of concern about Israel. As for the latter, it’s entirely possible, if not probable, that Jews who voted for Hillary Clinton thought she would be better for the health of the long-term U.S.-Israel relationship. And judging from Trump’s and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent effort to make Israel into a partisan issue in favor of Republicans, therefore putting at risk support from Democrats, those Clinton voters were prescient.