Jewish Voters Still Overwhelmingly Democratic

By E.J. Kessler

Published July 11, 2003, issue of July 11, 2003.

Jewish Democrats become apoplectic when they hear Republicans swaggeringly predict a shift in the Jewish vote toward the Republican column. The overwhelming preponderance of polling, Democrats say, supports the opposite view — that Jews, alone among white groups, remain overwhelmingly Democratic.

Last month, an independent poll for the Ipsos/Cook Political Report again confirmed the Democrats’ belief. It found that 64% of Jews described themselves as Democrats and only 26% as Republicans. Those numbers are similar to percentages found by the Gallup Organization, whose most recent polling shows that 50% of Jews identify themselves as Democrats, 32% as independents and 18% as Republicans.

The Ipsos/Cook poll also found that 71% of Jews would or would consider voting against President Bush, as opposed to 51% of the general population. In every major measure of satisfaction with the president — on his handling of the economy, domestic issues and even foreign affairs, which Republicans consider his strong suit — the poll showed that Jews were significantly more skeptical of the president’s performance than the general population. For example, 57% of the general population approved of Bush’s handling of the economy, compared to only 35% of the Jewish sample.

Republicans questioned the size of the sample, which included fewer than 100 Jewish respondents out of 4,000 respondents total. Democrats replied, however, that the Jewish respondents were actually part of an “aggregated” sample totaling 450 drawn from a rolling survey over five quarters, for a respectable 4.7% margin of error.

The Ipsos/Cook poll had Democrats crowing. “As much as Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, and various GOP operatives have targeted the Jewish community for a political conversion, they have failed,” said the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman.

“It’s not to say they won’t do better than they did in 2000,” when Bush captured a scant 21% of the Jewish vote, Forman told the Forward. “It’s hard not to do better, but with all the money and effort they’ve put in… if I were them, I would be disappointed.”

One Democratic strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, however, that the Jewish vote is not the primary target of the Republicans — Jewish contributors, who traditionally supply more than half of the money Democrats raise for their national ticket, are. On that score, the Democrats are vulnerable, he said.

“As a percentage of the electorate, if [the Jewish vote] were to drop from 80% Democratic to 60% Democratic, it is not going to mean anything,” he said. What the Republicans hope, he said, is to peel off $10 million to $15 million in contributions that would have gone into Democratic coffers. That, the strategist said, is doable if President Bush’s popularity remains as high as it is now throughout the election cycle. “That might not help Bush that much if he raises $200 million,” the strategist said, but the Democrats are so outclassed by Republican fundraising that “money not going to Democrats… hurts.”



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