Whither the Jewish vote?
posted by Howard Wasserman
Has anyone heard or seen much about polls indicating how the Jewish vote is expected to go this time? Jews have historically leaned strongly Democratic, even as they, as group, have gained in socio-economic power (the famous paraprase of Milton Himmelfarb is that “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.”). In 2008, Obama won around 74 % of the Jewish vote–this despite initial fears over older Jews, which prompted the Great Schlep in which younger Jews were encouraged to go visit their grandparents in Florida to encourage them to vote for Obama. And while the profile and influence of a Jewish conservative movement has risen in the past decade, the numbers have remained fairly stable since 1972. Georgetown’s Program for Jewish Civilization sponsored a symposium on the subject last week (videos included); interesting stuff. One of the speakers at the symposium identified data howing Obama ahead of where he was in the polls four years ago.
So I was surprised to learn of one recent, admittedly non-scientific poll: The first-graders in my daughter’s Reform Jewish day school (n=37) seem to be about equally divided between Obama and Ryan, with one class heavily for Romney. This presumably means their parents are similarly divided–or my daughter is in a preternaturally conservative and independent cohort. Needless to say, I was surprised; I expected something like a 75-25 split, maybe higher. Predictions that the Jewish vote would change have generally focused on the increasing populations of Orthodox Jews (who, like many religiously observant groups, tend to vote Republican) and of more-conservative immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But neither of those population points explains this result (which admittedly will not make it into the 538 calculations).