How Can Mitt Swing Florida Jews?

GOP Candidate Needs Sunshine State To Win White House


By Ira M. Sheskin

Published September 23, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

During my 35 years at the University of Miami, I have asked hundreds of Jews why they moved to Florida. The most common answer has been that they came here to join friends or relatives. Some came to retire, others for employment. Some wanted a place with a large Jewish community. Many mentioned the climate. But not one said anything about Florida’s large number of electoral votes.

It is a fact, however, that Florida is a “swing state” in national elections and has the most electoral votes of any swing state (29, the same as New York). This results in an extraordinary amount of attention being focused on Florida and its Jewish community in presidential elections.

At first glance, the attention paid to Jews in Florida may be a bit puzzling. After all, Florida is only 3.4% Jewish (639,000, excluding 77,000 snowbirds — although some snowbirds do vote in Florida). Because Jews tend to have fewer children than others, Jews comprise a larger percentage of the population age 18 and over. (In fact, about half of Florida’s Jews are age 65 and older.) Since well over 90% of Jews in Florida are registered to vote (nationally in 2008), and about 96% of registered Jews claim to have voted, Jews may actually constitute as much as 6% to 8% of Florida’s electorate in 2012.

Most elections are won by tiny margins: 51% to 49%, 52% to 48%. (Some people call 55% to 45% a “landslide.”) Thus, even a population group that is only 6% of the electorate can affect the outcome of an election, particularly in a state in which only 537 votes determined the winner of the 2000 presidential election.

A number of analysts believe that Mitt Romney must win Florida to unseat President Obama. That being the case, both candidates will pay significant attention to the Florida Jewish community. Traditionally, a parade of yarmulke-wearing politicians will visit the state’s synagogues and Jewish community centers, making speeches focusing on the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States, a strategy that assumes that Israel is the most important issue to Jewish voters.

The evidence suggests that while Israel is indeed an important issue to Jewish voters, it is not the key factor in determining how they vote. A national survey of Jewish voters just before the 2008 election showed that among 15 issues related to how Jews vote, Israel ranked eighth. Only 15% chose Israel as one of their top three issues.

If a candidate’s stance on Israel was the exclusive deciding factor, then Florida would have voted for John McCain in 2008. Barack Obama was a relative unknown, and his policies on Israel were in doubt. Obama had to send Joe Biden to Florida to attempt to reassure the Jewish community that his heart was in the “right place.” McCain, on the other hand, was a known quantity, with a long record support for Israel. Yet, 74% of Jews nationally voted for Obama (according to a new analysis of the Jewish vote by The Solomon Project, released this summer).

Does this mean that a candidate’s stand on Israel does not matter to the Jewish community? Absolutely not. It certainly does. Any candidate with a clearly unacceptable stand on Israel will no doubt receive little Jewish support.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.