Friday, October 24, 2008

The Jewish Vote

John Sides has a new post over at The Monkey Cage on the levels of support for Obama among Jewish voters. One question that has come up during the campaign is whether Jewish voters will support Obama to the same degree that they have previous Democratic nominees. The data John cited are from Gallup tracking polls taken from October 1-21 and suggest that Jews are pretty firmly in the Obama camp (74%). While I have no reason to doubt that Jewish support for Obama was high in the early part of October, I'd be interested in seeing what the trend is like, especially in the last couple of weeks.

On October 14, a columnist for the New York Post reported that Jesse Jackson, while speaking at a conference in France, said that "Zionists" would lose their control of U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration. The story was soon picked by CNN and Jesse Jackson was back in the news for a few days. Who better than Jesse Jackson to drive a wedge between Jewish voters and Barack Obama? Is it possible that the coverage of Jackson's comments had an effect on Jewish support for Obama?

One of the difficulties with assessing Jewish support over the course of the campaign is that data are hard to come by (at least until the election is over). Prior to seeing the Gallup poll I had scoured most of the national polls on looking for religious breakdowns and came up empty--almost. The IBD/TIPP tracking poll provides five-day rolling averages across multiple demographic categories, including religious affiliation. IBD/TIPP doesn't provide the sample sizes for subgroups but the number of Jewish respondents in each survey is not doubt very small, given that the Jewish vote accounted for only 3% of the electorate in 2004. With that in mind, and bearing in mind also that these data come from just one source, the graph below tracks the Jewish vote over the last couple of weeks.

Although Jewish voters clearly favor Obama, their level of support averaged over the entire time period (67.8%) is somewhat lower than the 74% given to John Kerry in 2004. Before the Jackson comments got attention, Obama averaged 74% of the vote (the same as the Gallup results); in the middle period, when the polling samples included some days before and some days after the airing of Jackson's comments, Obama averaged 71.4%; and in the last period, when all of the samples were taken after Jackson's comments came out, Obama averaged 61.2%. Interestingly, while McCain seemed to initially benefit from the decline in Obama's support, there was a real up tick in undecideds in the last period.

I don't want to make too much of this, as I only have a few data points, from small samples, taken over a short period of time. If anyone has access to other data that might shed more light on this, please feel free to share.


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