Whither the Jewish vote?

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).

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4 Responses

  1. AYY says:

    A poll of first graders? Who conducted the poll of the first graders–somebody at the school, or was it really not a poll? If it was the school, then I’d wonder if they were just trying to “out” those who don’t support Obama.

  2. The class was discussing the election and, as part of that, the students “voted”. I doubt there is any vast conspiracy afoot, but I’ll keep an eye out.

  3. Ellen Aprill says:

    For those interested, here is a recent article (cross-referencing the author’s book on the subject) from the Forward:


  4. Mls says:

    I don’t know about that, but Israel is apparently the only pro-Romney foreign country