Campaign Confidential

Unaffiliated Jews Don't Count?

  • Print
  • Share Share

Unaffiliated Jews — or nearly half of the country’s Jewish population — were excluded from the recent election poll commissioned by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The telephone survey, by conducted by GOP pollster Arthur Finkelstein and based on Election Day interviews with 1,000 Jewish voters in New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania, bypassed Jews who never attend synagogue or do not associate with a major movement. Despite the limited sample, the survey has been the lynchpin of the RJC’s effort to put a positive face on Jews’ overwhelming Democratic bent on November 7: Whereas a national poll conducted for major media outlets found that 87% of Jews voted for Democratic congressional candidates, the RJC has claimed that 26.4% of Jewish voters backed the GOP.

“The Jewish vote for Republicans held steady compared to reported results from 1992 to 2004,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks in a statement posted on the group’s Web site. “At the same time, in a difficult political environment, the national vote for Republicans declined significantly, resulting in the loss of control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

As it turns out, the RJC’s conception of the “Jewish vote” doesn’t include those who are not allied with a synagogue movement. In a November 17 interview with the Forward, Brooks gave an explanation for why unaffiliated Jews were screened out.

“The fact that someone eats a bagel for breakfast and they consider themselves Jewish is not really what were trying to study here,” Brooks told the Forward. “We wanted to study people who really felt that they had some denominational affiliation with the Jewish community because really this is a measure of where these kind of people vote and how they make choices and what issues drive them. So I think it’s a better predictive model to really get people — even if they go to synagogue once a year — the fact that they identify with a denomination in the Jewish community, I think, is what you really want to measure.”

Brook said that if a survey respondent answered the movement question by saying “I’m not affiliated, I’m just Jewish,” the questioning was concluded and the respondent was not included in the results.

According to Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist who studies the American Jewish community as a research professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institue of Religion, that methodogy isn’t kosher.

If the RJC’s “restrictions were in place on a national level, 54% of America’s Jews would qualify and 46% would not, ” Cohen wrote in an e-mail to the Forward, referring to figures from the results of the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey.

Cohen’s added: “The RNC-sponsored survey is distinctive in several respects. It restricts its coverage to three areas with relatively high rates of Jewish residential density, where Republican inclinations run a bit higher, a reasonable choice owing to the costs of finding Jewish respondents. It restricts its questioning initially to those who say they are Jewish by religion, excluding thoroughly secular and unengaged Jews. As we know, more religious people in America lean Republican. Then, among religiously identified Jews, the interviewers excluded those who never go to synagogue and those who do not identify with a major denomination – choices which also bias the sample in a Republican direction. With all these restrictions, it’s amazing that they found that only 26% of their selective sample voted Republican as contrasted with 13% in the AP national exit poll of Jewish voters.

“It’s also curious that Republican Party identification in this sample exceed Republican voting meaning that in effect, vast majorities of Democrats and Independents voted Democratic. In that respect, this survey is consistent with national surveys, both of Jews and Americans generally.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print



Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • 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.