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Kennedy’s Upset Victory over Carter Aided by Major Role of Jewish Voters

March 27, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jewish voters played a major role yesterday in Sen. Edward Kennedy’s stunning upset victory over President Carter in the New York Democratic Presidential primary. The Massachusetts Senator, however, credited his capture of 59 percent of the New York vote to Carter’s 41 percent, as well as his equally surprising victory in Connecticut yesterday, to voter unhappiness with inflation.

The voter turnout in the Democratic primary among Jews, as among all other New Yorkers, was light. But Jews, who traditionally comprise one-third to 40 percent of primary voters here, went 79 percent for Kennedy statewide and 82 percent in New York City.

Robert Strauss, Carter’s campaign manager, in conceding defeat fairly early lost evening, blamed it on the President’s announced budget cuts and “a bad UN resolution which hurt us here.” Strauss was referring to the U.S. vote March 1 for the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies which Carter repudiated two days later.

At the White House last night, Presidential Press Secretary Jody Powell also conceded the UN vote as well as the economy hurt Carter in New York. He also noted that many people who supported Carter did not vote yesterday. Observers believe that many Democrats who are unhappy with Carter’s policy on Israel and other issues, but do not support Kennedy, stayed home.


Kennedy said last night that he believed that his victory demonstrated voter dissatisfaction with the economy which has been his major issue, as well as concern about the President’s “competency in foreign policy” as demonstrated by his handling of such issues as the UN vote, Iran, Cuba and Afghanistan. Kennedy, interviewed on television, said, in response to a question, that he appreciated the Jewish vote but quickly added that he also did well in non-Jewish areas and had received votes from all ethnic groups in New York.

This was also stressed by New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, a leading Kennedy supporter in the state. He said that while Jews were expressing their “anger” over what they saw as either a change in U.S. policy against Israel or “incompetence,” they were joining the “majority” of New Yorkers who were dissatisfied with Carter’s handling of the major domestic and international problems.

Abrams noted that Kennedy also did well in Black areas and among Catholic voters, two groups which had failed to support him in earlier primaries. One commentator noted that if the Jewish voters had split evenly between Kennedy and Carter, Kennedy would still have won in New York because of support from these groups. In Connecticut, where Jews comprise only 10-12 percent of the voters, Kennedy also seemed to do well among all voters.

However, although the economy was Kennedy’s major issue, he did make a strong appeal for the Jewish vote here, attacking the UN vote. Carter’s supporters also made a major effort among Jews. Strauss met several times with Jewish leaders in an attempt to reassure them about the President’s stand. Vice President Walter Mondale and Mrs. Rosalyn Carter also campaigned extensively among Jews. Mayor Edward Koch appeared in television commercials for Carter saying, while the UN vote was a mistake the President demonstrated his honesty by admitting it. (See related story P.2.)


But the swing to Kennedy could be seen in Jewish districts throughout New York City. In Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Greenwich Village, Kennedy won by wide margins as high as 4-1. But these areas are considered among the most liberal districts in the country and were expected to go for Kennedy even before the UN vote.

However, the same trend was also shown in heavily-populated Jewish areas where concern for Israel is one of the primary concerns of voters. In these areas voters usually support the party stalwarts rather than insurgents, as Kennedy is in this year’s race by challenging an incumbent President.

In Brooklyn’s Boro Park, Kennedy won 8428 to Carter’s 2136. In East Flatbush-Crown Heights, his margin was 9346 to 5212; Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach, 12,228 to 3651; and Sea Gate-Coney Island, 10,367 to 3528.

The same situation was seen in Queens. In the Kew Gardens-Forest Hills area, Kennedy won 6845 to 3270 and in Bayside-Douglaston, 5043 to 3736. In The Bronx, in the Riverdale area, the Kennedy margin was 7984 to 3124, and in the Co-Op City area it was 14,152 to 6833. On Long Island, Jewish areas such as Roslyn gave Carter a margin of more than 2-1.


well said today that the “Jewish voters in New York did not support the President but I don’t think that would account for the full margin” of Kennedy’s victory. He said Carter may also have incurred losses by his repudiation of the U.S. vote in support of the March 1 UN resolution.

“Those who were against us did vote and those who were afraid didn’t “he said. He also suggested that the light voter turnout and possibly the heavy rain in New York yesterday also hurt the President. “Certainly the President’s decision on a balanced budget and also the UN vote on the Middle East peace process were politically costly,” Powell said.

He added, “Quite frankly, there will be other decisions in the anti-inflation fight and in the attempts to keep the Camp David peace process alive that may be politically difficult. The President is prepared to make those decisions and accept the consequences.”

Both Kennedy, whose moribund campaign was revived by yesterday’s victories in Connecticut and New York, and Carter are now looking ahead to the next primaries, especially Wisconsin next Tuesday, and Pennsylvania April 22 where there are large Jewish populations.

However, although most experts are crediting Kennedy’s New York victory to the Jewish vote, many point out that Jews are following the trend of other Democrats. In the Massachusetts pri

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