February 3, 2012 | 6:05 am
If you haven’t seen it yet, the PEW Forum on religion and public life just published a new analysis of party identification by religion. The bottom line, as far as Jewish voters go, is pretty clear: “Even Jewish voters, who have traditionally been and remain one of the strongest Democratic constituencies, have moved noticeably in the Republican direction; Jewish voters favored the Democrats by a 52-point margin in 2008 but now prefer the Democratic Party by a significantly smaller 36-point margin”. No wonder that Jewish Republicans were quick to release a statement and gloat.
“Jews are shifting away from their traditional allegiance to the Democratic Party and are showing a willingness to support the Republican,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Florida might have been a downer – but the PEW survey gives Jewish Republicans good reason to feel vindicated.
It is important though to look at the PEW survey carefully as we try to understand its meaning. You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I posted a long analysis in which I asked if Jews really trend Republican (you can read it here), using, among other things, the PEW data from 2006 to 2010. So now we also have 2011, and the PEW trend line of Jewish political tendencies looks like this:
There are a couple of things that should be said about the new numbers:
1. PEW numbers do show Jewish declining support for the Democratic Party and growing support for the GOP since President Obama was elected. However, this year is a little better for Democrats than last year – so one could think that the trend might have already shifted back. True, the change from 2010 and 2011 is within the margin of error (6%), so we will have to wait for next year to see what this means. However, those writing about this survey should acknowledge that fact rather than hide it to make their case (or Jewish rightward shift) stronger.
2. What I argued in my previous post, based on data from other polls, is that Jews seem to trend Independent more than Republican. This merits another look (which I hope to do soon), as the PEW people insist that “Jews are the only religious group analyzed in which the percentage who identify themselves as Republican (as opposed to leaning toward the GOP) has risen significantly”. What they say is the opposite of what other surveys demonstrated and should be carefully examined as it might change our outlook on Jewish political trends.
3. We don’t know why Jews are slowly moving to the Republican side. And while it’s tempting to think that his policies re-Israel have something to do with it (as Contentions’ Tobin argues), the survey doesn’t say such thing. It can be Israel, or his economic policies, or other things.
4. One wonders if Jews are now moving away from the President or from the Party – in other words: Is it disappointment with Obama, or with the Democratic Party? If more Jews are now real Republicans, if more Jews are going to vote for Republican candidates for Congress, a lot of interesting things can happen in districts in which Jewish voters send Jewish legislators to the Hill.
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