Ken Wald on the Puzzling Politics of American Jews
Date: May 23rd, 2011
Ken Wald, professor of political science at the University of Florida, presents us with three puzzles about Jewish political behavior in the United States: 1) Why are American Jews significantly more liberal than non-Jews who have the same socio-economic characteristics?; 2) Why are American Jews more liberal than their Jewish counterparts in other nations such as Australia, Great Britain, and Israel?; and 3) What accounts for the rightward ideological drift among American Jews during the 1970s and early 1980s, only to show a return towards more liberal political preferences in the late 1980s to present? We examine some common explanations for the first question, but Prof. Wald notes that these answers are not satisfying for explaining the latter two questions. He then suggests a historically-rooted explanation focusing on the minority status of Jews combined with the unique church-state relationship that developed during America’s founding (something not present in other nations). Ken then discusses how changes in the Democratic Party during the early 1970s affected Jewish political opinion. The rise of the Christian Right during the 1980s stopped the rightward drift of Jews as they became concerned with alterations to the historical church-state relations that they had favored. We conclude with comparisons to other minority religious groups in the US such as Mormons and Catholics, and finish with a bit of speculation as to where Jewish political opinion may be heading in the coming decade. Recorded: May 4, 2011.
Ken Wald’s website at the University of Florida.
The Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies (at the University of Michigan).
Religion and Politics in the United States (6th edition), by Kenneth D. Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown.
The Politics of Cultural Differnces: Social Change & Voter Mobilization Strategies in the Post-New Deal Period, by David C. Leege, Kenneth D. Wald, Brian S. Krueger, and Paul D. Mueller.
The Politics of Gay Rights, edited by Craig A. Rimmerman, Kenneth D. Wald, and Clyde Wilcox.
Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion, and Politics.
Carmel Chiswick on the Economics of American Judaism.
David Brody on the 2010 Midterm Elections.
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