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HUC-JIR 2011 Political Survey Findings

HUC-JIR 2011 Political Survey Findings

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Published by Daniel J. Sieradski
The findings of a recent study by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on the political attitudes of the American Jewish electorate.
The findings of a recent study by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on the political attitudes of the American Jewish electorate.

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Published by: Daniel J. Sieradski on May 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Snapshot of the American Jewish Electorate:2011 Political Survey
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.
This political survey was intended to provide a snapshot of a number of Jewish voters. Itoffers some interesting insights into the depth and intensity of Jewish politicalengagement, but by the nature of this study it does not permit one to make any definingconclusions.Further, the findings confirm that from this particular cohort (
 some 2300 participants)
Jews hold deeply embedded policy positions on key domestic and international issues. Inthis particular study one finds a distinctive Jewish conservative voice emerging on Israel-related matters and an array of domestic social issues. The data also suggests that amonghighly engaged Jews, those who are active within Jewish religious and communal life,there is a sharp divide on political attitudes and policies. This liberal-conservative splitmodels the current political landscape of the country. The intensity of this political andsocial disconnect could also be seen in the additional comments offered by many participants to this survey. In the statements that accompanied a number of specificquestions and at the conclusion to the study, participants offered a broad range of  personal and policy reflections. These messages in many ways confirmed the findings of Frank Luntz
and others who have written about the growing presence of angry Americanvoters. The focus of many of these commentaries negatively depicted the “other” votinggroup (namely, liberals offering viewpoints on conservatives or conservatives providingcomments about liberals).This particular voter sample demonstrated a high level of Jewish institutional connection.Similarly, within this sample there appeared to be congruence around shared class values,educational achievements, income capacity, and institutional affiliation patterns. Thesevoters reflected a commonality of background, yet highly divergent political outcomesand social priorities. The data around personal achievement and institutional connectionreaffirmed the extraordinary levels of accomplishment that in many ways have definedAmerican Jewry. This cohort specifically reflected the perceived make-up and character of the Jewish communal activist, fully aligned with the “organized” Jewish communityenterprise, while socially linked to the broader society and culture.Absent from this study were various key “voices” within the community, a significant body of less-engaged “just Jewish” (individuals who identify as Jews but often don’t holdthe array of affiliations and social connections as seen in this survey), the absence inreasonable numbers of “millennial Jews” (younger Jewish participants), and “New Jews”(including those who are converts to Judaism or who have over the past two decadesentered the United States as new citizens from other parts of the world).
One of the more intriguing elements of this study dealt with attitudes associated with theTea Party movement. Here, one finds a strong impulse on the part of participants todeclare themselves as either highly engaged or “refreshed” by this new set of politicalvoices or highly “alarmed” or concerned about this movement. This divide amongrespondents ought to be seen as the framing statement concerning the overall surveyfindings, namely a deep and growing political division among American Jews. Whatever the actual numerical or even ideological breakdown within the Jewish community, suchconclusions can not be confirmed as a result of this research.Among the areas of significant disconnect among Jewish voters was the issue of guns,gun control, and the support of such institutions as the NRA. For the small number of Libertarians within this sample and for some other respondents, there was a particular anddistinctive emphasis on individual freedoms, which ran counter to the general framework of the responses received.Older participants in this survey demonstrated a more traditional connection to liberalvalues, candidates, and causes. Younger voters in turn appeared to reflect a moreindependent basis related to their party connections and political outlook. This assertionhas been confirmed in other recent surveys. Similar to other studies, younger Jewishvoters would also appear to be less connected ideologically and politically to the case for Israel.The “Obama Factor” represented another significant phenomenon within this study.Fewer participants in this survey endorsed the Obama Presidency than would appear to be the national percentage of Jewish support for the Democratic standard-bearer, basedon the 2008 election results. One of the unknown elements that may be reflected in thissurvey has to with what factors might drive Jews next year to reconnect with thePresident or move them away from their traditional base within the Democratic Party?In seeking to define the characteristics of the voters who elected to participate in thissurvey, four distinctive “types” seem evident.
The Red State Jewish Voter:
These individuals reflect in their political behavior a particular commitment to social conservative principles; some within this camp oftendemonstrate less of an ideological or policy interest in domestic affairs. This cohort of theJewish vote is particularly supportive of a strong US-Israel relationship and values theimportance of a strong American military, along with an American foreign policy agendathat is specifically designed to respond to international terrorism and the nation’s securityconcerns.
The Tea Party Jewish Voter
: This may be the newest classification of thecontemporary Jewish voter. Joining with other Americans who are specifically concernedwith the financial well-being of the nation, these voters reflect a particular commitment towhat they define as traditional values. Similar to other conservative voters, they have2
embraced the idea of limited government and the affirmation of the rights of theindividual, etc…
The Blue State Jewish Voter
: This bloc represents the more traditional democraticliberal Jewish activist; these voters over the course of decades dominated the Jewish political scene. Their politics reflected an alignment of their Jewish and civic values on behalf of an array of social causes.
The Blue-Dog Jewish Voter
: This subset of the Democratic Party consists of Jewishvoters whose views on the social and economic agenda tend to be more conservative thanthe standard ideological positions of the party and who have adopted a strong defense policy, a commitment to protect and support American interests, including Israel.Crossing many of these definitional categories, one could identify a “
 passionate quotient 
that served to align Jewish participants from a number of these ideological camps. Ashared concern for the well-being and security of Israel and a joint commitment tonational security and to the fight against international terrorism were the core elementsthat seemed to engage many of those participating in this survey, regardless of political party or socio-economic status.As will be confirmed below, there are distinctive divides along religious movement lines, by political party affiliation, by gender, and to lesser degrees by age and geography.Among the long term questions raised by this and other studies, will American Jewish political behavior change, as Jews move into the fourth and fifth generation of their American journey?
Unpacking the Results:
The general profile of the respondents to this survey:
Average Age:
56 (17 respondents were under 20 and 5 indicated thatthey were over 90).
Geographical Patterns:
While every state was represented, of the 923individuals who responded to this question, nearlyone-half of the sample resided in three states,California, New York and Florida.
Income Levels:
70% reported earnings of over $75,000
Educational Achievements:
Over 90% of the participants held college degrees,with 51% holding advanced degrees.
56% of those surveyed were men; 44% were women3

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