Florida Jews voted in disproportionately high numbers in the state’s Democratic primary and supported Hillary Rodham Clinton by a slightly higher margin than the general white population, according to exit poll data.
Jews comprised 9 percent of the Democratic electorate Tuesday, according to MSNBC exit polls, though they make up less than 4 percent of Florida’s population. On the Republican side, exit polls showed Jews comprising just 3 percent of the roughly 1.9 million votes cast.
In both cases, Jews voted in vastly higher proportions than the population at large. The 57,000 Republican Jewish votes represented about 70 percent of the estimated 80,000 Jewish Republicans in Florida, according to demographer Ira Sheskin. The 151,000 Democratic Jewish votes represented 40 percent of Sheskin’s estimate of 375,000 Jewish Democrats in Florida.
Fifty-eight percent of Jewish Democrats voted for Clinton, more than double Barack Obama’s 26 percent. John Edwards, who is expected to withdraw from the race on Wednesday, won 13 percent.
Among the overall white population, the numbers for Clinton and Obama were slightly lower than they were among the Jews, at 53 and 23 percent, respectively. Edwards picked up the balance, winning 20 percent of the overall white vote.
The statistically insignificant difference between Obama’s support among Jews and the broader white population comes as the Illinois senator has been working to refute an e-mail smear campaign painting him as a Muslim whose support for Israel and related Jewish concerns is open to question.
The numbers also raised the question of where Edwards supporters will gravitate once their candidate withdraws.
“That’s the big question,” said a political consultant with ties to the Clinton campaign. “It seems to depend on who they are.”
The consultant noted that much of the affluent, liberal Jewish electorate is presumably already with Obama — “the liberal, Beverly Hills Jew,” in his formulation — and predicted that Clinton could gather up Edwards supporters.
The larger Republican turnout was likely explained at least in part by the absence of Democratic campaigning in Florida, the result of a pledge by the candidates intended to punish state Democrats for scheduling their primary early, in violation of party rules.
Republican candidates, meanwhile, actively courted Jewish voters in Florida. This was particularly true of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is expected to withdraw from the race Wednesday after finishing a distant third in Florida.
The sample size on the Republican side was too small to provide reliable estimates of how Republican Jews voted.