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The Jewish Vote, 2012

The Jewish vote, once pivotal in American politics, is still important, though not as much as it was seven decades ago.  Back in the 1940s, Jews cast four percent of the votes in America, twice the percentage they do today.  And they cast a much larger share in the state of New York, which in the politics of the first half of the 20th century was a closely fought state in any close presidential election.  New York was then also the country’s largest state by far, with 47 electoral votes, and cast 13 percent of the nation’s popular votes (in the 1944 election a full seven percent of the popular votes, one out of every 14, were cast in the five boroughs of New York City).  

Jewish voters in New York had little affection for the state’s Republican Party, predominantly upstate-based and Protestant, or for the heavily Catholic machine Democrats of New York City; and Jews stood to the left of both parties on economic and cultural issues.  One of their favorite politicians was Fiorello LaGuardia, Jewish on his mother’s side, who was elected to Congress from East Harlem in the 1920s as the nominee of the Republican and Socialist parties and elected mayor in 1933, 1937, and 1941 over the opposition of the machine-run Democratic party, the first time as the Republican Party candidate and the last two times on the leftish American Labor Party tickets as well.

Thus, the politics of Jewish voters in New York, and to a lesser extent in some of the other large states, provided an incentive for both parties to nominate liberal candidates—often one from New York—and advocate liberal policies.  In every presidential election from 1924 to 1952 (when Dwight Eisenhower ran from his perch as president of Columbia University), at least one major party had a New Yorker at the head of its ticket.  In 1940 and 1944, both did.  Franklin Roosevelt, who ran both times, owned a townhouse on East 65th Street.  Wendell Willkie, the Republicans’ candidate in 1940, had an apartment on the museum block of Fifth Avenue; Thomas E. Dewey, their candidate in 1944, lived on East 71st Street.  

In 1948 Dewey, Harry Truman, and third-party candidate Henry Wallace all stressed their support of civil rights.  The target of these appeals was not so much black voters—there weren’t many black voters in those days—as it was the Jewish vote.  Dewey carried New York’s 47 electoral votes 46 to 45 percent, with eight percent for Wallace, who won nearly half his votes nationally from New York State.

Things have changed.  Jewish voters became solidly Democratic after the 1960 election, New York became solidly Democratic as well, and after 1963 New York was no longer the most populous state: it is now about to be passed by Florida, to become number four in population.  Jews now constitute two percent of the national electorate, not four percent as in the 1940s.  One reason is their low birth rates; another is the enfranchisement in the 1960s of Southern black voters and—because of the abolition of poll taxes—many Southern white voters. 

Since then, according to exit polls, Jews have voted between 64 percent and 80 percent Democratic in every presidential election but one.  That exception was in 1980, when Jews favored Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan by margin of just six percentage points, 45 to 39 percent, and Reagan, to just about everyone’s surprise, carried New York, 47 to 44 percent.  In the last four elections Jews have voted 78 percent for Bill Clinton, 79 percent for Al Gore (and Joe Lieberman), 74 percent for John Kerry, and 78 percent for Barack Obama.  Republican nominees in those elections won, respectively, only 16 percent, 19 percent, 25 percent, and 21 percent of Jewish votes.

This year, polling suggests, Barack Obama will find it hard to duplicate his 2008 margin of 57 percentage points over John McCain.  A September, 2011 survey conducted for the American Jewish Committee showed Obama with negative ratings on the economy and his “handling of U.S.-Israel relations” and put him ahead of Mitt Romney, then a candidate for the Republican nomination, by only 50 to 32 percent, or 18 percentage points.  A March, 2012 survey, also for the American Jewish Committee, showed Obama leading Romney, who had then not quite cinched the Republican nomination, by 61 to 28 percent, a margin of 33 percentage points.  A Jewish Voters Values Survey, sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and conducted at about the same time, showed that 62 percent of Jews wanted to see Obama reelected and 30 percent would prefer a Republican.  Of those preferring a Republican, 62 percent favored Romney, with between 12 percent and 15 percent each for Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul.  In the crucial Ohio Republican primary, Romney may have owed his 38 to 37 percent win over Rick Santorum to the Jewish Republican voters—despite their relatively small numbers—in that state.

Corroborating evidence of Obama’s slippage among Jewish voters comes from the Pew Research Center’s compilation, based on multiple surveys, of party identification.  Pew found that between 2008 and 2012, Democratic Party identification among Jews dropped from 72 to 66 percent and Republican Party identification increased from 20 to 28 percent.  Jewish voters’ switch towards the Republicans was higher than among any other religious group.  It leaves Republicans still outnumbered among Jews by more than two to one but cuts the Democratic margin by about one-third.  In a recent national poll by Investor’s Business Daily and its polling partner TIPP (IBD/TIPP), the two percent of poll respondents who were Jewish favored Obama over Romney by a 59 percent to 35 percent margin.  The sample size was probably too small to be meaningful, but the result is roughly consistent with the other findings cited.

What all these results point to is something less than a two-to-one advantage for Obama over Romney among Jewish voters, similar to the split in the Jewish vote in 1972, 1976, 1984, and 1988.  The drop-off in the Democratic percentage among Jews could be crucial, as the Republican Jewish Coalition points out, in target states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan—particularly Florida, where in 2008 Obama carried the heavily Jewish Broward and Palm Beach Counties by 390,145 votes, much more than his statewide margin of 236,148.  In other words, without the size of his margin in those counties, Obama would likely have lost Florida’s electoral votes.

There is always a tendency to ascribe changes in Jewish voting patterns to issues relating to Israel.  Dissatisfaction with incumbents’ Israel policies undoubtedly accounts for the very weak Jewish support, compared to other Democrats, of Jimmy Carter (45 percent) and the record low support for George H. W. Bush in 1992 (11 percent).  But responses to issue questions in the AJC surveys suggest that while some of the decline in Obama’s standing is prompted by Israel issues, some is due more to economic and other issues on which Obama has had problems with voters generally.  

It should be noted that these polls (except for IBD/TIPP) were conducted well before the Democratic National Convention, at which reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was first omitted from the platform, then awkwardly reinserted, and before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent statement on red lines and red lights.  The bottom line: it looks like Jewish voters will favor Obama by a little less than two to one, and not, as in 2008, by a little less than four to one.                                     

Michael Barone is senior political analyst at the Washington Examiner and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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Froma on September 27, 2012 at 8:04 am (Reply)
Much has happened since the Democratic Convention (including the convention itself). Given the meltdown of the Republican campaign in virtually every area, I would be surprised if your findings are not seriously out of date.
Reuvain on September 27, 2012 at 8:22 am (Reply)
The survey by the AJC is deeply flawed and should be recalled. According to the survey jus 3% of respondents are orthodox and 2% are Reconstructionists. Get real there are 5 Reconstructionist Temples in Florida and some 250 Orthodox synagogues. It seems this poll has made the same mistake as others, it was done by random dialing. Orthodox Jews concentrate in specific neighborhoods. Most live in Miami Beach, North Miami Beach etc. but few in Tampa. An accurate survey would offset the calls by making additional polling in orthodox neighborhoods. In a recent poll by the Jewish Federation in NY the orthodox were 40%, in Florida their numbers must be at least 15%

It's shocking that a national group like AJC would release such a flawed survey.
    Ira Sheskin on November 6, 2012 at 6:23 am (Reply)
    I am a University of Miami professor who teaches statistics and has written a book on survey research. You are severely misinformed. Random digit dialing is the only way to get a random sample of a population. It is the method used in ALL of the Gallup, Time/CNN etc polls. I also was one of the prinicipal architects of the 1990 and 2000-01 National Jewish Population Surveys and have done 15 major surveys of Jews in Florida since 1982. 3% Orthodox is about right for statewide results. When one does random digit dialing, you, at least theoretically, get everyone in their proper propotion. The Orthodox may be underrepresented a bit if they refused to participate in the survey at a higher rate than non-Orthodox Jews.
    Having said all of this, the AJC survey has other flaws, it is initially done with RDD, but then people volunteer to be on a panel for a year and to get paid to be on the panel.
David Levavi on September 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm (Reply)
Some comments and gripes about Jewish voters:

The reduction of conservative Jewish voters into "one issue voters" is an outrageous insult. The unspoken message of "liberal" American Jews who resort to this slander is that liberal Jewish voters are better, more civic minded, patriotic and loyal Americans for the breadth of their concerns.Politically conservative Jews' robust and unequivocal support for Israeli is a little bit--if you should excuse the expression--un-American.

Dual loyalty is the unsubtle slander inherent in "one issue voter." It takes a grasping and grotesque climber like Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resort to such verbiage. In American politics, it is Jewish drek rather than Jewish cream that rises to the top.

I wasn't born when the (half) Jewish Fiorello La Guardia won his lopsided victory for mayor. But I did witness the election for Governor of Charles (Chuckele) Schumer over Alfonse D'Amato. New York Jews and the State of Israel never had a stronger, louder, or more effective supporter than Al D'Amato. But the Jewish vote went to the unknown with the Jewish name over the Italian American Catholic. This speaks volumes about the intelligence of liberal Jewish voters and how broadminded and inclusively "American" they are.

The manifest hypocricy of liberal Jews is summed up in the oft expressed commonplace, "Jews live like Wasps and vote like Puerto Ricans."

I live in the heart of the upper west side, the most liberal voting district in the nation and a bastion of American Jewish liberals. The resident population of the wildly liberal Upper West Side is lily white (95%+ Caucasion west of Broadway). One bedroom apartments cost a million. Two bedrooms cost one point five.

I also spend a great deal of time in Hunts Point in the East Bronx. The business of Hunts Point is produce, salvage, trucks and whores. Residential and industrial overlap in Hunts Point. Exceedingly few white people, let alone Jews, live in Hunts Point. Dominicans, Mexicans and African Americans tread softly in Hunts Point. Hunts Point is Puerto Rican turf.

Puerto Rican pride is expressed everywhere. In Puerto Rican banners, flags and decals in apartment windows, on cars, in shops and strung across streets and avenues everywhere you look. Pride in America is equally robust. Puerto Rico is part of the USA and Puerto Ricans are enormously proud that they--unlike say, Dominicans or Mexicans-- are 100% American from the git go. A Puerto Rican will soberly remind you that Puerto Ricans sacrificed more in Viet Nam than any other ethnic group in America.

A liberal Jew has as much in common with a Puerto Rican as mouse has with a lion.
A liberal Jew is neither patriotically American nor patriotically Jewish. His only loyalty is to the perpetuation of the hypocritical hogwallow in which he hides.

I know Puerto Rican ex cons--double murderers, dope dealers and thieves of every stripe--any one of whom has more self respect, honor and integrity than my liberal Jewish neighbors.
    TXJew on October 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm (Reply)
    "an outrageous insult." You, of course, would never engage in such egregious name-calling against your liberal adversaries. Sober and respectful all the way for you.
bem17356 on September 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm (Reply)

"Given the meltdown of the Republican campaign in virtually every area"
What world are you living in buddy. Geesh! Talk about a complete vacation from reality. Take a gander at the hard numbers pal! 2nd Qrt GDP "1.25%" Obama's approval rating at the same place it was at this point in 2010. Massive majority say country is on wrong track. Almost ` of Americans favor a tax cut. Obamacare is even less popular since the Supreme Court ruling in June. The cocalled Democratic base has been rallied re-rallied and re-re-rallied to the point of fecklessness. Liberals Progressives and those clowns of a socalled Enlightened Egalitarian Left Politic are careening from one end of the political ring to the other. There morally intellectually and politically Punch Drunk! Out on there feet! Habitually going for the clench up! Playing keep away from any and all of the issues. Most specailly Obama and The Democratic Party's record of utter complete, unmitigated, massive total failure on a scale not seen in mondern times. Perhaps you are in need of Electro shock treatments. It just might snap you back into "THE REAL WORLD!"
Jerry Hersch on September 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm (Reply)
Perhaps the American Jews are getting wise to the fact that they are NOT what the Republican party wasnt or cares a D-mn about.
For over a year Republican candidates have been vying to prove their Christianity to the party faithful so as to be a more acceptable canidate..Where does this leave Jews ..under a Republican bus.
When Joe Straus a Jewish Republican was elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives..Evangelical Christian legislatures were opposed to Straus gaining this position feeling it should go to a Christian..All those opposed to Straus because he is Jewish were outspoken "supporters" of Israel. Yes Jews are getting wiser and wise to who controls the vast majority of the Republican Party strength...the Deep South,the Mountain States,The Great Plains ..areas where Jews are few and are of little impact.A completely Republican Washington will emasculate any political strength Jews have in Washington.Putting Jews at the whimsical mercy of those Evangelicals their parents and grandparents feared.. 'Never drive through rural Mississippi'..Now some Jews are willing to put the future of a secular America and the security of Israel into the hands of those their parents feared.
rtcdmc on September 28, 2012 at 10:57 am (Reply)
Over the years I've had quite a few Jewish friends, but we've never talked politics. I'd be curious to hear a Jewish perspective as to why Jews vote predominantly Democratic (though not always). This appears to indicate "group think" since the balance of the electorate has been 50/50 for the last few years.
    Jack Terrence on September 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm (Reply)
    Abortion, abortion, abortion
Susan on September 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm (Reply)
How interesting:
"For over a year Republican candidates have been vying to prove their Christianity to the party faithful so as to be a more acceptable canidate."

Few evangelical Christians view the tenets of Mormanism to fall within the parameters of Christianity, yet all the ones I know--and living in the Bible Belt I know many--will be enthusiastically supporting Mr. Romney next month. But then I'm from Tennessee, the state with a Jewish congressman who is critcized in the primaries by his challengers for "not being a minority."

Careful with that sterotyping, yourself.
    Jerry Hersch on September 29, 2012 at 7:26 am (Reply)
    As a rural Georgian who has spent over 50 years traveling the "evangelical belt" I am quite familiar with the undercurrents.My son is a graduate of Covenant College and lived in Chattanooga for many years.My wife had a medical office in rural South Carolina.I knew most of the faculty at westminster seminary and lunched weekly with Cornelius Van Til one of the great apologists of the Reform movement.We are oldsters my wife will be celebrating her 97th..we've been around long enough to understand the culture in which we have chosen to emerse ourselves.
    As for Mormons I keep on a shelf above my desk a Book of Mormon,an Enllish version of the Koran,an Old and New Testament and Talmudic commentaries...The Book of 1 Nahum in the Book of Mormon is most enlightening as to Mormon views of Jews
      A. Schrieber on November 6, 2012 at 11:37 am (Reply)
      "The Book of 1 Nahum in the Book of Mormon is most enlightening as to Mormon views of Jews."

      You Judge Mormon views abouut Jews by what it says in their bible. Are you for real? Have you ever seen what your own Bible says about non-Jews? Does it reflect YOUR opinion?
Christian Rideout on September 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm (Reply)
The only reason that the Republican party is comfortable with Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is that many of its primary voters are convinced (incorrectly) that Barack Obama is a Muslim. As far as they can see, a Mormon is better than a Muslim. If Barack Obama had been more demonstratively Christian over the course of his first term, the Republican nomination race may have been rather different.
Park Slope Pubby on September 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm (Reply)
Liberal Jews: they care more about socialism than about God. they care more about socialism than about either the US or Israel. Their God is FDR. He lived 6o years ago, but he is more important to them than anybody before or since, including Moses. They are having very few children, so they will die out.

Conservative/Orthodox Jews are pretty much the opposite, including having LOTS of children. In anther generation the Jewish vote will be completely different. You saw a first sign of this in the recent NY election to fill Weiner's place. A conservataive Catholic, who was opposed to same sex marriage, won the Jewish vote, and the seat.
TexasMom2012 on September 29, 2012 at 9:21 am (Reply)
I truly cannot understand how liberalism can trump reality. Reality must acknowledge that Obama's policies have not helped the economy and may have actually hurt it. How can free birth control and same sex marriage trump over 23 million American unable to find work? How do liberals find these blocks of people that vote as a group? Why don't these voters realize Dems are just catering to them for votes? I am at a loss to understand how any American can vote for a President who will not stand up for our country, our flag, our rights and especially our precious freedom of speech! I fear for our country but take solace in the treaty Texas signed when joining the US, we can leave the US, the rest of you may go down with the ship of state, we have a lifeboat.
RonL on September 30, 2012 at 4:03 am (Reply)
Straus was the least socially conservative choice. He was selected by the Democrats and liberal Republicans in Texas.
Did some idiots resort to antisemitism? Yes. But shills for this leftist collusion capitalized on real and fabricated more antisemitism to protect the corrupt bargain. It's like calling anyone who opposes Obama "anti-black."
Ira Sheskin on November 6, 2012 at 6:27 am (Reply)
This article makes a number of good points, but:
1) it is the American Jewish Committee that does the surveys, not the American Jewish Coalition. To my knowledge the latter does not exist.
2) while Jews may be 2% of the US population, they are a higher proportion of the voting age population. Well over 90% of Jews are registered to vote compared to 64% of all Americans. Well over 90% of registered Jews actually do vote in presidential elections. Put all together, Jews are probably aboug 4% of those who will case ballots.
Ira Sheskin, Professor and Director of the Jewish Demography Project of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, University of Miami
    mlurie on November 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm (Reply)
    We regret the error that Mr. Sheshkin refers to in (1) and extend our thanks to him for pointing it out.

    The text has been corrected. -- The Editors
charles hoffman on November 18, 2012 at 1:47 am (Reply)
It is our strong belief that if Florida's Jews weren't a prize which might have affected the national outcome, Mr Romney would sooner have visited his money in Switzerland than travel to Israel with a sweaty casino mogul

Comments are closed for this article.

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