How Did Jewish Americans Vote Polls Offer Imperfect Takes But The Big Picture Is Clear
Its a Jewish ritual: Every four years after a presidential election, the question arises about how American Jews voted.
Check the Jewish exit polls is the rallying cry.
Those days may be over.
Blame apples and oranges and other assorted fruit: There is no longer a single exit poll to compare and contrast. Thats left the field open to partisan Jewish groups to post polls claiming movement in the direction they favor.
For instance, a poll commissioned by the Republican Jewish Coalition found that 30.5% of Jewish voters voted for GOP incumbent Donald Trump nationally compared to 60.6% for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Its not just the embassy that moved. Jewish voters are moving, too, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bushs former press secretary, said on an RJC conference call Nov. 4, the day after the election.
Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the liberal group J Street found that 77% of Jewish Americans voted for Biden and only 21% for Trump.
Trump pushed the Jewish vote further to the Democrats, the groups pollster wrote in a memo summarizing the results.
The two polls align on the big picture that the vast majority of Jewish voters supported the Democrat, as has long been the case in national elections. But is either group correct about the change they say happened over the past four years?
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was unable to view the breakdown of Jewish voters in the Votecast poll without paying a steep licensing fee.
Poll: Trump Tops 30% Of Jewish Vote Highest Total For Republican In Over Three Decades
Election officials work in a ballot room, at the Kenosha Municipal Building, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Nov. 4, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Daniel Acker.
JNS.org US President Donald Trump received the highest percentage of the Jewish vote for a Republican presidential candidate in Tuesdays election, while former Vice President Joe Biden received the lowest for a Democratic presidential nominee in 32 years, according to a poll released on Wednesday.
Trump received 30.5 percent of the Jewish vote, while Biden got 60.6 percent, according to a Republican Jewish Coalition survey conducted by Basswood Research and McLaughlin & Associates.
Bidens share of the Jewish vote was the lowest for any Democratic presidential candidate since 1988, while Trumps share of that demographic was the highest since that year.
In 2016, Trump received 24 percent of the Jewish vote six percentage points lower than what presidential candidate Mitt Romney got in 2012.
Could The Jewish Vote Decide The Election
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A map showing the distribution of the Jewish electorate across the country.
In the run-up to the presidential election, BrandeisNOW asked faculty to provide analysis and insight into some of the most pressing issues facing the country. This story is part of the series.
If the 2020 presidential election is anything like 2016, it will be decided by a relatively small number of voters in a handful of battleground states. American Jews, who comprise less than 2.5% of the population, are small in number. Nevertheless, as the political upset in 2016 has made clear, every vote matters.
Historically, Jewish adults vote at rates higher than the national average, with some estimates putting the rate between 80 to 85%.
Because of their concentration in a few states and their relative homogeneity in political outlook, Jewish voters are an important part of the electoral math, especially in states or districts that are considered competitive.
In our research, we use Bayesian Multilevel Regression with Poststratification to synthesize data from hundreds of national surveys to develop profiles of the US Jewish population that include their geographic and demographic distributions. Our most recent work was a synthesis that included data from over 1.3 million US adults to provide Jewish population estimates within US congressional districts.
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Trump Versus Biden Voters
While the results reported above may hold true for our sample in general, we see strong differences between Trump and Biden voters, with our overall data being heavily influenced by the preponderance of the latter.
If we separate out the Trump voters , we see that their unequivocal support for Israel is much more definitive. Among those who voted for Trump, close to 87% were able to endorse the yes option on Q7 while only 11.9% chose the option The term is too vague for me to give a yes or no answer. On the question of the importance of Israel-related issues in their decision on how to vote, Biden voters rated a 42 while Trump voters rated a 68. Also, while only 20% of our sample of Biden voters stated that their Jewish identity played a role to a great deal in their voting, 32% of the Trump sample felt that way. While we must caution that the sample size of Trump voters is relatively small, the trend is noticeable and warrants further study.
Trump voters pro-Israel attitude
Biden voters pro-Israel attitude
Contrary To Popular Belief Many Us Jews Support Trump
US President Donald Trump leaves after a Hanukkah reception at the White House in Washington, DC, Dec. 11, 2019. Photo: Yuri Gripas / ABACAPRESS.COM.
In the 2016 US presidential elections, most polls declared that 70% of American Jews voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In my opinion, American Jewish support for Trump is far higher than commonly thought. Before you recommend sending me to a mental health clinic, please read my reasoning in the article below.
The first question is, of course, who is a Jew? In the United States, voter registration does not indicate voter religion. Polls are conducted by companies that specialize in the Jewish population. The problem is that these companies are actually surveying a partial and unrepresentative group of the Jewish population and therefore the results are distorted.
The largest group not represented at all in the polls are Israeli-Americans. These are Israelis who emigrated to the United States and are citizens with voting rights. Their numbers are not accurately known and there are several estimates ranging from 600,000 to one million. Trump support in this group is very high. There are no official polls on the percentage of support, but I believe that 80% is a conservative estimate. Pollsters do not know how to reach these voters and they only manage to measure a very small percentage of them.
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American Jewish Political Funding
Like other constituencies in the American electorate, many members of the American Jewish community contribute money to candidates for political office and for political initiatives. While polls find that only 18%39 to 19%40 of American Jews identify as Republican, this small group today includes the largest donors to the Republican Party. At the top of that list,41 coming in as the largest single donor , is Sheldon Adelson, who donated nearly $124 million to Republicans in the 2018 cycle. Adelson, notably, is one American Jewish voter/donor who very publicly puts his Israel-related agenda at the center of his political engagement.42 The focus of this agenda is shifting the foreign policy of the United States to uncritically support and endorse policies related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that align closely with the Israeli right- and far-right-wing i.e., policies rejected by a strong majority of American Jews. Adelson is joined in his giving by other Jewish Republicans, many of whom likewise prioritize hardline policies in support of Israel, including Bernard Marcus43 and Paul Singer44. Such donors today play a strong role some might argue as strong as key constituencies like pro-Israel evangelicals and wealthy Messianic Jews45 in shaping Republican candidates and the Republican Partys Israel-related policies.
American Jews Are Liberal And Vote Democratic But Among Them Orthodox Jews Are Increasingly Voting Republican And Spouting Familiar Conspiracy Theories
Trump won the election. Places of worship must remain open during the pandemic. Antifa is more dangerous than white supremacists.
These views are standard among some evangelicals and Catholics.
But a new survey suggests that those views have permeated other religious groups, too, notably Americas small Orthodox Jewish community.
As a voting bloc, American Jews are liberal and vote Democratic but among them, Orthodox Jews, who strictly adhere to traditional teachings, are increasingly voting Republican and spouting familiar conspiracy theories former President Donald Trump has stoked.
A new survey of 449 Orthodox Jews showed that those who voted for Trump and those who voted for Biden had completely different views on the issues facing the country.
Among Orthodox Jewish Trump voters, Israel, Iran and terrorism were among the top concerns cited in a survey by Nishma Research, a Connecticut-based polling firm. Among Orthodox Jewish Biden voters, the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the country together and health care were the top three issues.
Overall, it seems pretty clear that Orthodoxy has shifted toward Trump, said Mark Trencher, president of Nishma and the studys lead researcher, noting that among those who voted Republican or Democrat, there were huge differences.
Critically, three-fourths of those who voted for Trump questioned the elections fairness.
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Most Jews Thought Trump Was Friendly Toward Israel Less So Toward Us Jews
Regardless of what they thought of his policies, a majority of U.S. Jews said that Trump was friendly toward Israel, slightly higher than the share who rated the Republican Party in general as friendly toward the Jewish state . Among Orthodox Jews, 94% described Trump as friendly to Israel 21 percentage points higher than the share of Orthodox Jews who said the same about the GOP at the time of the survey.
Even among Jewish Democrats, more than half described Trump and the GOP as friendly toward Israel, although these figures were much lower than the comparable shares among Jewish Republicans .
By comparison, 45% of U.S. Jews said the Democratic Party was friendly toward Israel, including just 17% of Orthodox Jews who expressed this view. While just 19% of U.S. Jews described the Democratic Party as unfriendly toward the Jewish state, fully half of Orthodox Jews took that position . About a third of U.S. Jews said the Democratic Party was neutral toward Israel.
Older Jews and those with college degrees were more likely than those who are younger and less highly educated, respectively, to describe the Democratic Party as friendly toward Israel.
Poll: Trump Biden Hit Record Highs Lows Among Jewish Vote
U.S. President Donald Trump received the highest percentage of the Jewish vote for a Republican presidential candidate in Tuesdays election, while former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden received the lowest for a Democratic presidential nominee in 32 years, according to a poll released on Wednesday.
Trump received 30.5 percent of the Jewish vote, while Biden got 60.6 percent, according to a Republican Jewish Coalition survey conducted by Basswood Research and McLaughlin & Associates.
Bidens share of the Jewish vote was the lowest for any Democratic presidential candidate since 1988, while Trumps share of that demographic was the highest since 2012.
In 2016, Trump received 24 percent of the Jewish votesix percentage points lower than what presidential candidate Mitt Romney got in 2012.
Meanwhile, 78 percent of Republican Jews voted for Trump, 86 percent of Jewish Democrats voted for Biden and 41 percent of Jewish Independents voted for Biden, while 38 percent went for Trump.
Some 70 percent and 19 percent of Orthodox Jews supported Trump and Biden, respectively 57 percent and 36 percent of Conservative Jews supported Biden and Trump, respectively 80 percent and 13 percent of Reform Jews voted for Biden and Trump, respectively while those who are not affiliated with any movement voted 57 percent to 32 percent for Biden and Trump, respectively.
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Countdown To November 2020
Nothing has happened to suggest that in 2020 there will be an unprecedented shift in the non-Orthodox Jewish American vote in favor of re-electing President Trump. Indeed, the view expressed in in 2005 might just as well be expressed today: In the broader Jewish community, the cultural and religious agenda of the Republican party continues to exercise little or no appeal indeed, other things being equal, most American Jews are likelier to vote for a candidate whose key issues are abortion rights and no prayer in the public schools than one who vigorously defends Israels right to use force to protect itself or who denounces anti-Semitism in the UN.21 That commentator went on to speculate that for Republicans to significantly increase their share of the Jewish vote, Democrats will have to nominate a candidate who is explicitly anti-Israel.
Functionally, such a strategy serves a number of distinct objectives.
Moreover, in close races across the country, in which every vote will truly count, any change in the Jewish vote could be significant. In particular, small shifts in the Jewish vote in states like Florida where generational factors could open the door to greater shifts than elsewhere in the country could be a decisive factor in a close election.
But This Doesnt Mean Jews Cant Unite Behind Bidens Agenda
President-elect Biden, for better or worse, is a moderate. And as such, it shouldnt be that difficult to get most Jewish voters, including many of those who voted against him, to agree on most of his policy proposals:
Coronavirus: Bidens decision to make this a priority should resonate well with the entire Jewish community. Except for the small faction ofHeshy Tischler followers in Borough Park, COVID deniers never made inroads among Jewish Americans, even those in the pro-Trump circles who took issue with limitations imposed by New Yorks Democratic governor and NYCs mayor.
Immigration: limiting immigration of all kindsone of Trumps hallmark policieshas never been an issue Jewish Republicans feel strongly about. Rolling back these restrictions is something they can easily support.
Taxes: This is more of an issue for old-time Jewish GOP supporters than for other pro-Trump Jews. It wont be easy for Biden to garner support on this issue from Jews who voted for his rival.
Israel: This should have been the big dividing issue, but in reality, the differences arent huge.
And Iran? Here its more about reality than policy. Biden would like to return to the nuclear deal . Still, since Iran has shifted away from the agreement following Trumps withdrawal, theres no easy path back to the agreement. A newly negotiated deal could probably win over many Jewish skeptics since it would be a bit stricter than the previous deal and would likely get more support from Israel.
What We Know About Jews And The November Election
As a professor who has been studying campaigns, elections, and the Jewish community for close to two decades now, it is important to note that as the 2020 election cycle winds down, it will take months to generate a clear picture about how the diverse American polity voted and why. As such, articles with titles Many Jews of color and diverse Jews are politically conservative and many voted for Trump are useful because they highlight the diversity within the American Jewish community, but they are concurrently misleading because data substantiating such a claim simply does not exist.
We have no reliable, comprehensive exit poll data on Jews, period. There is no systemic proof of how votes actually broke down in 2020, and these exit polls themselves are incomplete given the large number of absentee and mail-in ballots cast not to mention the constant re-weighting and re-releasing of the data.
However, we do have a few insights about the American Jewishcommunity going into the November 2020 elections.
There was a notable increase in the percentage of Jews voting for aDemocratic candidate compared to 2016, when just 61 percent planned on votingfor Democrat Hillary Clinton. With respect to Donald Trump on the Republicanticket, 19 percent of Jews planned on casting a ballot for him, so there was alsoa marginal increase for Trump four years later.
Other Findings Of Note
We asked about Jewish voters choices in 2016 and found no difference in the sample as far as their party choice for president. While there was a slight increase in Democrat votes , voters for Donald Trump remained steady .
Jewish Biden voters do have some concerns about the future direction of their political party as far as Israel-related issues or anti-Semitism is concerned, but seem to be fairly confident on the policy regarding Iran. On Israel, 44.23% have no concern at all, while 55.7% have varying degrees of concern. Less than 14%, however, have a great deal or a lot of concern.
Jewish Biden voters concern regarding the future party position on Israel
Compare this with Jewish Trump voters, who, perhaps surprisingly to some, showed a greater concern for future Republican direction on Israel, with two-thirds expressing some degree of concern, and more than 32% expressing a great deal or a lot of concern.
Jewish Trump voters concern regarding the future party position on Israel
Regarding anti-Semitism, Biden voters show a similar pattern as with concern over Israel-related issues, with over 45% not concerned at all, and only 11.5% concerned a great deal, and only 9.8% concerned a lot.
Biden voters concern regarding the future party position on anti-Semitism
Jewish Trump voters concern regarding the future party position on anti-Semitism
Biden voters concern regarding the future party position on Iran
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One Last Dig Into The 2020 Jewish Vote
Two weeks have passed since election day, and theres nothing anyone wants more than to put this whole thing behind us. But before we do so, we need to settle the least important question of these elections, yet the one most likely to come up during your Thanksgiving, Passover or whatever family dinner table: How did the Jews vote?
As everyone probably knows, this question is far from being settled.
Ask Democrats, and theyll point to a J Streetexit poll which found that the Jewish vote went 77:21 percent in favor of Bidenan increase compared to Hillary Clintons results among Jewish voters in 2016.
Ask Republicans, and youll get a different answer. Theirpoll found that Trump increased his share of Jewish voters to 30.5 percent, while 60.6 percent voted for Biden.
Its a pretty big gap, but not one that surprises experts. Were not only talking about a tiny slice of the population, which is hard to measure in these types of polls, but also one that is not precisely defined .
For most, the difference is meaningless because the bottom line remains the same: American Jews vote by a large margin for Democratic candidates and did so this time.
But are there any scenarios in which tiny shifts in Jewish voting trendlines make a difference in real-life politics?
Is there a bottom line?