Voter Survey Finds Jews More Liberal Than Most Americans; but Young Jews Are Increasingly More Conse
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Voter Survey Finds Jews More Liberal Than Most Americans; but Young Jews Are Increasingly More Conse

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While American Jews remain more liberal than most Americans, the findings of a survey released by the American Jewish Committee suggests that younger Jews are growing increasingly conservative.

“There is no question that Jews are for more liberal than the average American,” according to Milton Himmelfarb, research director for the American Jewish Committee. “However, there is evidence of a growing conservative political trend, at the college freshmen level, for instance, based on figures compiled by the American Council on Education. These figures show college freshmen are less liberal than their older brothers and sisters and parents.”

At a news conference last week at the head-quarters of the AJCommittee, preliminary findings of Jewish voting patterns in the November 6 Presidential election showed that American Jews voted by a margin of two to one in favor of Democratic candidate Walter Mondale.

These findings corroborated the conclusions of a major pre-election survey of 959 Jews nationwide on their political attitudes, done by sociologist Steven Cohen of Queens College. Cohen’s survey showed 57 percent of Jews identifying themselves as Democrats, 12 percent as Republicans and 31 percent as independents.


On a broad range of issues, from gun control to opposition to tuition tax credits for parochial schools, Cohen’s survey found Jews consistently siding with the liberal positions on these issues in an approximate ratio of two to one.

According to Himmelfarb, one reason for the seemingly small size of the Jewish vote for President Reagan in 1984 is the fact that the President’s better showing among Jews in 1980 was due to an anti-Carter vote, rather than a pro-Reagan choice.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter received about 44 percent of the Jewish vote to 39 percent for Reagan. In 1976, Carter received 68 percent of the Jewish vote to 32 percent for Republican Gerald Ford.


But the change in voting patterns, however small, is viewed as a shift toward what Himmelfarb described as a more “pluralistic Jewish electorate.”

Jews voted for the party of their choice in 1976, since both Ford and Carter had no basic appeal for the Jewish electorate, Himmelforb said. In 1976, Jewish voters went by a margin of three to one for the Democratic Party.

Continuing, Himmelfarb said: “This year, when the Democratic nominee did carry special attraction for Jewish voters, they went only two to one for the Democratic candidate. This would suggest a definite trend away from the Jews’ established liberal-Democratic voting patterns of the past, toward a more pluralistic Jewish electorate willing to vote for Republican Presidential candidates.”

Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the AJCommittee, noted that while the national trend of the Jewish voters had been to support the Democratic ticket, in the recent election, “Texas Jewish voters cast ballots for President Reagan over Mondale by a three to one margin.”

Bookbinder added, “While Jews were the only ethnic group that showed less support for Reagan in his second bid for the Presidency than in 1980, I would argue that a base support of 30 percent for the Republican candidate in 1984 is a figure that neither party can ignore. Jews are not a monolithic group, and this election clearly proves that.”

Bookbinder contended that if the election were held last summer when the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s campaign was still a factor, “the vote may very well have been fifty-fifty.” But, he added, Reagan’s speech during the Republican Party convention in Dallas at which time he termed those who oppose school prayer in public schools as being “intolerant of religion” and the prominence of the religious right at the convention, may have contributed to Jews voting in majority for the Democrats.


In the survey by Cohen, who directed similar surveys of American Jewry’s attitudes on various issues since 1981, it was determined:

*Jews opposed quotas in hiring minorities by 64 to 22 percent with 14 not sure, but supported affirmative action in other forms by 70 to 20 percent, with 10 not sure.

*Jews supported the goals of social welfare by 75 to 20 percent with 8 percent not sure, but split on their effectiveness and on maintaining financial support by 64 to 23 percent with 13 respondents not sure.

*Jews overwhelmingly supported gun control and capital punishment.

*Jews tended to support “gay rights,” but appeared “troubled” by the rise of homosexuality.

*Jews support the separation of church and state, opposed tuition tax credits for families which send their children to private schools, and opposed silent meditation in public schools.

*Support “dovish” or “detentist” U.S. policies toward the Soviet Union.

*The respondents were generally for less military spending but also for a strong U.S. military to back up Israel.

On other public issues, Cohen found that American Jews were split on protecting extremists’ civil liberties, supported capitalism over socialism, were split on the use of U.S. military force, opposed nuclear power plants, and supported staying in the United Nations.

Cohen explained that his data was derived from 959 mail back questionaires returned from households with “distinctive Jewish names” as listed in the nation’s telephone directories. He added that the characteristics of this sample were compared with data from a more costly data collection technique used in the 1981 Greater New York Jewish Population Study, conducted by Cohen and Paul Ritterband, pointing out that such comparisons revealed “few if any significant differences.”

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