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Obama to lose share of Jewish vote?

Posted: September 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm   /   by

Check out this math:

In 2008, Barack Obama won 53% of the national popular vote, but was estimated to have won 78% of the Jewish vote, a 25% difference. If approval levels are indicative of intent to vote for a candidate, then the current gap is 11% (55% approval for Obama among Jews, 44% among all voters).

The New York 9 results suggest that  the higher number of Orthodox Jews in the district is not sufficient explanation for the  strong performance by Turner among Jewish voters. In heavily Orthodox and Russian precincts in New York in 2008, Jews voted 2 to 1 for McCain over Obama. Since these two groups comprise, at most, 15% of Jewish voters nationally (Orthodox Jews are a younger than average age cohort, with larger average family size), their votes among the total Jewish vote would have been 10% for McCain and 5% for Obama. All other Jews would have voted  73% to 12% for Obama over McCain (or by a six to one margin) to get to the 78% to 22% overall vote among the Jewish community.

Assume that the Orthodox plus Russian vote (estimated at 7% of Jews in the district) was 40% of the total in New York 9, and assume it went by 3 to 1 for Turner — a stronger result than for McCain — or 30% for Turner and 10% for Weprin, who is an Orthodox Jew himself. If the overall Jewish vote in the district was 50% for each candidate, then the non-Orthodox, non-Russian vote among Jews was 40% for Weprin and 20% for Turner — a 2 to 1 margin, down from the 6 to 1 margin among this group for Obama in 2008.

Now take these results by subgroup and apply them to the national Jewish voter distribution in 2012, assuming the Orthodox/Russian group is up to 16% of the total thanks to a slightly faster population growth than all Jews. If this group goes 3 to 1 for the Republican, that is a 12% to 4% split. If  the remaining 84% of Jewish voters break 2 for 1 for Obama, that is a 56% to 28% split. In total, the Jewish vote for Obama would be 60% and for the Republican it would be 40%. The last Republican to earn 40% of the Jewish vote was Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.  No wonder messaging to Jews has become a big issue for Democratic strategists.

Obviously it is an extrapolative exercise, but I think it’s a compelling one. At very least, one can ask oneself a simple question: Barring any sudden conversions to a more pro-Israel position, a repudiation of the anti-Zionists in his circle, or a turnaround in the economy, does anyone expect Barack Obama to do better among Jewish voters? I thought not.

So then, the question becomes, how much worse does he do? This seems like plausible math for a possible answer.

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Managing Editor at Western Free Press
Christopher Cook is a writer, editor, and political commentator. He is the president of Castleraine, Inc., a consulting firm providing a diverse array of services to corporate, public policy, and not-for-profit clients.

Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including (now a part of Western Free Press) and He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to
Christopher Cook