Jewish Journal


The story of the 0.04% Orthodox vote

by Shmuel Rosner

November 9, 2012 | 5:13 am

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington D.C., December 2011,. (Photo: Reuters)

On election night, as I was writing the long print-edition story of the election, I referred in one paragraph to the visit I had that morning to precincts in Beachwood Ohio:

On the morning of Election Day, I spent a couple of hours harassing Jewish voters in Beachwood Ohio, not far from Cleveland. These are precincts that went 71 percent-28 percent for Obama in 2008, 65 percent-35 percent for Kerry in 2004, and 77 percent-22 percent for Gore in 2000. I can’t tell you what the numbers will be like this time, but based on the dozen or so interviews I had time to do, it is likely that Romney got numbers in these precincts closer to those of the 2004 Bush than to the 2008 McCain. Possibly even higher.

Luckily for me, the good people of the Orthodox Union – that is, Nathan Diament – didn’t make me wait long. They are already collecting the data from heavily Orthodox precincts, among them one that I visited on Election Day. The data is not yet complete, but they agreed that I post what they already have for their “2000, 2004, and 2008 Vote in Precincts with High-Concentration Of Orthodox Jewish Voters”. Take a look at the table, and I will follow it with a couple of comments:


So what can we learn from all this?

1. That the data is sporadic and the voters inconsistent. Generally speaking, there is an unmistakable uptick in the Orthodox Republican vote since the 2000 election, but the real jump was in the first four years – when Bush was in the White House. Those of you who read my book on the Jewish vote should have internalized that these were the formative years of the Israel-as-a-wedge-issue political campaign. Many of the voters that were convinced that the Republican Party is better on Israel probably were in that camp way before Obama came along. In fact, you can see that in some cases, the McCain-Palin ticket failed to attract the same percentage of Orthodox voters as the Bush-Cheney ticket of 2004.

2. This isn’t the case in Beachwood, but you can see that in some Orthodox precincts the Republican candidate is doing better than the Democratic president. Having said that, one should be careful not to jump to hasty conclusions about the Orthodox vote and its role in the overall Jewish vote. In my 9 comments on the Jewish vote, yesterday, I referred to the Orthodox vote in point number 8: “Interestingly, the RJC poll doesn’t prove the common theory that Republican Jews are mostly Orthodox Jews. The percentage of Orthodox among the group of Republican Jews is definitely higher in proportion, but it is hardly large enough to explain the increase in the Republican Jewish vote”. And it is not just the RJC poll. Look at the crosstabs from the J Street poll: almost 60% of the Orthodox still voted for Obama.

3. But here’s another interesting nugget from the J Street poll. Jim Gerstein, the man in charge of the poll, asked people who voted for Obama if they had ever considered voting for Romney at any point during the campaign. Interestingly, many eventual Obama voters did consider Romney at some point. And Orthodox voters tended to consider him much more than non-Orthodox voters. Of the 59% Orthodox who voted for Obama, almost half, 29%, said that they did consider voting for Romney, and 14% said that they considered voting for him “very seriously”. For the non-Orthodox, this number stands at 4% (from a much larger pool of voters, since less non-Orthodox voted for Romney – so the “consideration” factor among the Orthodox is even more pronounced).

4. On the other hand, if so many of the Orthodox “considered” voting for Romney – some of them “seriously”, but ended up voting for Obama, what does it mean? A success for Obama surrogates? A failure of Romney surrogates? Is this group ready to move to the conservative column and just needs another push – or maybe if it didn’t move now, not even with Obama at the helm, to vote for the Republican candidate, it isn’t likely to move in the foreseeable future.

5. Last, but not least in importance: One has to remember that we are talking here about 10% or so of the 2% Jewish vote. That is, 0.2% of the vote. A move of 20% of these voters to the conservative column means a shift of 0.04% of the vote (most of it in places like New York and New Jersey). So, if I were a Democratic operative, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over such a theoretic possibility.


1 Cuyahoga County Precincts Beachwood-00-C, F, G, H, and K (Beachwood High School, 25100 Fairmount Boulevard), and University Heights-00-K, L, and M (Temple Emanu El, 2200 South Green Road). In 2012, University Heights K, L and M were changed  to University Heights-00-F, South Euclid-04-D, and Beachwood-00-A.
2 Palm Beach County Precinct 4145 (Del Prado Elementary School), as identified by Boca Raton Synagogue (7900 Montoya Circle, N) After the 2000 elections, then-labeled Precinct 193B was split into two precincts, 4144 and 4145. The results given were for 4145 only, since it alone was identified as being the primary precinct for the Orthodox community; however, for a more accurate comparison from 2000, refer to the parenthetical numbers, which reflect the results of both 4144 and 4145. The 2008 numbers represent both precinct 4144 and 4145, together.
3 Aggregate results of Kings County, 48th Assembly District, which is home, among others, to Beth Torah Congregation (R. Lieberman), G’vul Ya’avetz, Young Israel of Flatbush, and Young Israel of Midwood.
4 Aggregate results of Lakewood Township.
5 Miami-Dade County Precinct 29 (North Beach Elementary School), as identified by Beth Israel Congregation (770 West 40th Street).  Voter turnout for the precinct was 46% less in 2004 than in 2000, which is likely due to early voting in other precincts.
6 Bergen County, Teaneck, Districts D-11, D-12, and D-18, which are home to Beth Aaron Congregation (Rabbi Rothwachs), Bnei Yeshurun Congregation (Rabbi Pruzansky), Congregation Keter Torah (Rabbi Baum), and Rinat Yisrael Congregation (Rabbi Adler).
7 Lake County, Wickliffe City Ward 2, Precinct B (Wickliffe Middle School, 29240 Euclid Avenue).  Telshe Yeshiva borders on Lake and Cuyahoga Counties.
8 Passaic County, City of Passaic, Ward 3 (School #3, Ahavas Ctr, School #1, Senior Ctr, School #3).

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