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Jewish vote crucial in key states

An interactive map by the American Jewish Population Project breaks down the Jewish population by state.

An interactive map by the American Jewish Population Project breaks down the Jewish population by state.

BOSTON — A new study, touted as the first-ever state-by-state, county-by-county Jewish population estimate, shows how the Jewish vote could play a crucial role in key battleground states.

The study, released Sept. 22 and conducted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University in suburban Boston, found that in Bucks County, Pa. — one of the areas closely watched this election cycle — Jewish adults make up more than 6% of the population.

“That’s three times more than the national numbers” of Jews, said research associate Daniel Parmer.

Jewish voters have a record of higher-than-average turnout.

“If it’s a tight race,” Parmer said, “Jewish voters could swing the election” in that county.

The study also shows how the Jewish vote could have significant impact in Florida’s Palm Beach area, where the 209,400 Jews there make up nearly 15% of the adult population, according to the study.

That number is significant in a state where President Barack Obama won by less than 1% in 2012, or 74,309 votes.

The study also looked at American Jews’ party identification, finding that 54% of American Jews identify as Democrats, while 14% identify as Republicans.

In Colorado, the percentage of Democrats was slightly lower (49.7%, and Republican a little higher (17.9%)

But only 43% of American Jews call themselves liberal, a lower percentage than those who say they are Democrats.

“We see a higher proportion of Jews who identify as Democrats but a lower proportion have liberal political views,” Parmer said.

“Conversely, there are more Jews who identify as conservative [21%] than Jewish Republicans.”

The results also show that 36% of American Jews consider themselves neither liberals nor conservatives, and that 32% identify as neither Democrats nor Republicans.

Those results are mirrored in Colorado, where 44.7% say they are liberal 18.8% conservative and 36.5% moderate.

The American Jewish Population Project’s latest report, which is based on population figures from 2015, includes new data on gender and race, as well as population profiles for major metropolitan areas on the East Coast, West Coast and Chicago.

The study and updated map is based on nearly 250 independent samples of the US adult population collected from 2008 to 2015. This includes more than 280,000 respondents, of whom nearly 6,000 are Jewish.

Among the most notable findings is the diversity among Jewish millennials — young adults aged 18 to 34. The study puts the number of millennial Jews at 1.4 million.

The study shows a decline in party identification among millennials, with 37% saying they identify with neither Democrats nor Republicans.

The study also finds diversity among the younger Jews, with 19% identifying as non-white, more than double the figure for Generation X, the previous cohort.

Parmer said this has implications for the political issues they care about, like racial inequality.

In Colorado, nearly all Jews (94.7%) identify as white.

Overall, the study estimates that 4.2 million adults identify as Jewish “by religion.” Adding Jewish adults who identify in some other way plus an estimate for the number of Jewish children results in an overall population estimate of 7.16 million.

Saxe noted the challenges of estimating the Jewish population: the small sample size, the absence of religion data in the US Census and disagreement about criteria for determining who is a Jew.

Other highlights of the study include:

  • 57% of Jewish adults are college graduates.
  • More than one in 10 Jewish adults identify as a person of color.
  • More than one-quarter of Jewish adults are 65 years of age or older.
  • Nearly 50% of the US adult Jewish population lives in one of three states: New York (23%), California (13%) or Florida (13%).

The researchers say that the study’s state-by-state analysis could be useful in understanding the Jewish dynamics of November’s presidential election.

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