Effects of Religious Identity and Ethnicity on the Israeli-Jewish Electorate

in Israel Studies Review
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Ethnicity and religious identity are two major interrelated cleavages within the Israeli-Jewish electorate. Previously, ethnicity’s effect had a stronger impact on voting patterns, while today religious identity is more influential. Former studies conceived religious identity in terms of levels of observance, such as Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox. We claim that each of these groups has unique characteristics independent of degree of religious identity. To test this hypothesis, we measure religious identity as a nominal variable, applying an interactive model that compares the effects of the pairings of religious identity and ethnicity to a common baseline. Data from before the 2015 elections reveal that religious identity has stronger effects than ethnicity: religious groups support the right more than the secular. However, the ultra-Orthodox tend to support the right to a lesser extent than other religious groups. In closing, we compare the role of religious identity in Israel to its status in today’s world.