by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Many of this year’s college graduates will cast a vote in a presidential election for the first time in November. If they are Jewish or Asian-American, as we are, the odds are that they will vote Democratic. Among Jews, 78% backed Barack Obama in 2008, and 70% did in 2012, despite a foreign policy that at best could be described as rough on Israel. Asian-American support for Mr. Obama grew between 2008 and 2012, from 62% to an even more lopsided 73%. What accounts for this overwhelming support for Democrats?
Several reasons are typically given for Jewish loyalty to the Democratic Party: President Harry Truman’s post-World War II support for Israel; the socialist tendencies brought by Eastern European Jewish immigrants; fear of Christian anti-Semitism; and the Jewish attachment to tikkun olam (literally, “repair of the world,” but often conflated with social action).
Liberal commentators are fond of associating the more recent leftward tilt of Asian-Americans with hostile rhetoric toward immigrants coming from some Republican candidates, as well as support for progressive positions on issues such as health care, economic policy and even racial preferences. But the Asian-American community is diverse and includes many different ethnicities—from Indians to Chinese to Vietnamese—that cannot be characterized as having a monolithic view on any of these issues.
So what accounts for the predominance of liberalism among both Jews and Asian-Americans? Perhaps it’s higher education. In the U.S. population at large, the possession of a college or postgraduate degree has been a predictor of Democratic Party affiliation. We believe, in particular, that the liberal leanings of many professors at elite schools likely play an important role. …
… Will this trend continue in the decades ahead? It’s impossible to say, but it’s not too soon for Jewish and Asian freshmen to start thinking about where their long-term interests lie. To them we say: Congratulations on your achievement, but don’t let it cloud your political judgment. Now that you’re heading to university, you need not sublimate your own views to impress your professors or others around you. College is an opportunity to explore, question and think—not merely to accept as dogma all that is heard in the classroom and on campus.