Why are so many Russian Jews Republicans?

I wouldn’t exactly describe my family this way, but here are some data (do read the whole article):

The most recent data, from the 2004 election, show that Russian Jews preferred Bush to Kerry by a margin of 3 to 1. Israel, national security, and the economy topped the list of concerns among Russian Jews, but there was also a cultural component to their preference; they were among the so-called Values Voters who voted Republican based on cultural wedge issues. A month before the election, 81 percent of Russian Jews supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages—nearly the inverse number of Jews nationally. They also expressed heavy opposition to affirmative action and showed less support for on-demand abortion, according to numbers compiled by the Research Institute for New Americans, which tracks the Russian-speaking community.

And here is more evidence.  Why might this be?  The stronger record of Republicans, in particular Reagan, as anti-communists is one obvious reason, but that doesn’t explain the broader conservative tendency.  The Russian Jews are not anti-gay marriage because the U.S. Republicans are.  The more hawkish stance of Republicans on Israel is another reason, but again that doesn’t seem to explain why the connection is such a fundamental one.  It doesn’t sound as if these Russian Jews are yearning to become Democrats, if only for the Israel issue.

I would suggest that many Russian Jews, compared to American Jews, are much less hesitant to affiliate with the American brand of Christianity found in the Republican Party.  Related strains of thought have been prevalent in Russia for a long time, yet for a long while their Christian nature was covered up by communist rule.  Furthermore attachment to Israel, rather than a lifelong felt contrast with American Christians, or strict Judaic observance, is the source of Jewish identity for many Russian Jews.  So affiliation with a fairly Christian party is not jarring for the Russian Jews and indeed it may be welcomed, especially if it dovetails with pro-Israel attitudes. 

The implied prediction is that Russian Jews who assimilate more in American life, and who marry Americans, are less likely to be Republicans.

I found this part of the article interesting:

Theirs is no country-club Republicanism. Russian Jews in New York, the nation’s largest Russian-Jewish community, numbering 350,000, are largely under-employed; a majority earns less than $30,000. (These numbers do not reflect under-education. The average Russian Jewish immigrant has more higher education that his average American Jewish counterpart.)

On related questions, here is Ilya Somin.  Here is another opinion:

“Russians respect power,” says Gary Shteyngart, a novelist who emigrated to New York from Leningrad at age 7. “Many immigrants give lip service to democracy but in the end they want some patriarchal white guy to run things with a strong hand. Feelings of oppression that began within the anti-Semitic confines of the Soviet Union are turned from a defensive to an offensive stance under the false perception that the Democratic Party is indistinguishable from the Communist Party of the USSR.”

I thank Natasha, a loyal MR reader, for the pointer.


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