Today I attended this presentation:

American Jews and the 2008 Presidential Election: Democratic and Liberal as Ever?

Steven M. Cohen HUC, JIR, NYU, Sam Abrams Harvard, NYU
Berman Jewish Policy Archive and NYU Wagner

Steven M. Cohen has a new study out analyzing the relationship between being Jewish and voting Democrat. You already know that Jews tend to vote for the Dems, and that 75% of Jewish voters say they are going to vote for Obama this time around. But did you also know that:

  • Older Jews are more likely to vote for Obama than younger Jews? Maybe the Great Schlep should have taken older Jews from Florida to a swing state like Pennsylvania or Ohio.
  • The number of young Jews going to Hebrew school is declining; the number who attend Yeshiva or get no formal Jewish education at all is increasing. On both ends of that spectrum, Jewish voters are more likely to vote Republican.
  • There is a trend on the part of some observant Jews to identify as ‘non denominational.’ This is a small and statistically insignificant trend, so if you’re doing it consciously, be aware: this ha no impact on surveys of the Jewish population. Folks who don’t identify with a denomination are nearly always non religious and non observant.
  • Jews vote Democratic in numbers far higher than white Americans who they most resemble. But: they are just like white Americans when polled on the issues. In other words: Jews are voting more liberally than their positions on the issues would otherwise indicate.
  • Yes, that means that Jews vote D because of tribal affiliation, not some clear headed analysis of the issues, as some progressives would like to believe.
  • My corollary, which Cohen disagreed with: that liberal leaders in the Jewish community have done a great job using frames to affect non Orthodox political behavior, a-la Lakoff. This is done by repeating the phrases tikkun olam, social justice, and pluralism until young Jews are successfully imprinted. This young Jews grow up thinking the same political thoughts (on average) as their non-Jewish peers; but they behave AS IF they were more liberal. I think Cohen doesn’t like Lakoff….
  • Left wing Jews care about anti-Semitic threats from the right. Right wing Jews care about anti-Semitic threats from the left. It’s not that each group doesn’t think that ‘their’ side has anti-Semites; it’s that they consider those threats to be minor in comparison. Corollary: since there most Jews lean liberal (at least in voting behavior) they do not take right wing accusations of anti-Semitism that seriously. That’s why, in the end, they don’t care that Obama’s Rev. Wright invited Farrakhan over for a visit once upon a time.
  • Income and education levels don’t correlate strongly with political identification. In other words, the Democrats don’t get voters from significantly different income levels than the Republicans, over all. The loyalty might be explained by this: the Democrats are historically the party of the ‘outsiders’ as opposed to the ‘insiders.’ Jews still see themselves as one of the ‘outsider’ tribes in America, along with blacks, recent immigrants, gays, Catholics and other groups.

It was a pretty cool presentation. Read the report for yourself.