A study by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute of Brandeis University in Boston released on Thursday, examined each state separately for the first time, revealing some remarkable discoveries about how the Jewish vote will affect the upcoming election, playing a disproportionate role in key states.
The state-by-state survey found that in some areas of the country, Jewish voters will play a large role in the outcome. For example, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Jewish adults make up more than 6 percent of the population.
“That’s three times more than the national numbers” of Jews, said research associate Daniel Parmer to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
This effect is even greater since, as the study noted, Jewish voters traditionally have a higher-than-average turnout at the polling stations, giving them greater impact in close decisions.
“If it’s a tight race,” Parmer said to JTA, “Jewish voters could swing the election” in that county.
Another area in which Jews have already affected political decisions was in Palm Beach , Florida. With a Jewish population of 209,400, Jews make up nearly 15 percent of the adult population, according to the study. This was clearly a factor in 2012, when President Barack Obama won the key state by a margin of less than one percent, or 74,309 votes. Jews heavily favored Obama, with more than 70 percent voting for him in both of his campaigns for the presidency.
The study also found that 54 percent of American Jews identify as Democrat while 14 percent identify as Republican. Nonetheless, only 43 percent consider themselves to be liberals, a significantly lower figure than those who identify what is considered the more liberal party.
“We see a higher proportion of Jews who identify as Democrats but a lower proportion have liberal political views,” Parmer said. “Conversely, there are more Jews who identify as conservative [21 percent] than Jewish Republicans.”
The results also show that 36 percent of American Jews consider themselves neither liberals nor conservatives, and that 32 percent identify as neither Democrats nor Republicans.
The American Jewish Population Project’s latest report, which is based on population figures from 2015, includes new data on gender and race, as well as population profiles for major metropolitan areas on the East Coast, West Coast and Chicago.
The study and updated map is based on nearly 250 independent samples of the U.S. adult population collected from 2008 to 2015. This includes more than 280,000 respondents, of whom nearly 6,000 are Jewish.
Overall, the study estimates that 4.2 million adults identify as Jewish “by religion.” Adding Jewish adults who identify in some other way plus an estimate for the number of Jewish children results in an overall population estimate of 7.16 million.
The study also investigated a group considered pivotal in the elections: millennials — young adults aged 18 to 34. The study found that 1.4 million millennials identify as Jews “by religion”.
According to the study, this age group has much less political identity than older voters. 37 percent of Jewish millennials say they don’t identify with either Democrats nor Republicans. Among those who do, 51 percent say they are Democrats, as compared to 56 percent of Jews aged 65 or older who identified as Democrats. Only 12 percent of millennials say they are Republicans.
The study also finds more racial diversity among the millennial Jews, with 30 percent identifying as non-white. That’s more than double the figure for older Jews.
This particular data is politically relevant at the local level, where most surveys of Jewish communities do not include the racial breakdown, said Parmer. He noted the diversity in New York City and its impact on which issues are especially relevant. Nearly 12 percent of Jews in Manhattan identify as non-white, while in the Bronx, the figure is nearly 30 percent. He said this has implications for the political issues they consider important, like social justice and racial inequality.
The institute’s director, Leonard Saxe, noted the challenges unique to estimating the Jewish population. In addition to the small sample size, and the absence of religious data in the U.S. Census, religious considerations make classifying Jews difficulty. There is a high rate of intermarriage for Jews in the US. Different groups ofJews also disagree about conversion and criteria for determining who is a Jew.
“The population is continuing to grow,” Saxe said. If you read media reports, “you might think the sky is falling and that we are continuing to see declines in the Jewish population, and that’s not the case.”
Other highlights of the study include:
- 57 percent of Jewish adults are college graduates.
- More than 1 in 10 Jewish adults identify as a person of color.
- More than one-quarter of Jewish adults are 65 years of age or older.
- Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. adult Jewish population lives in one of three states: New York (23 percent), California (13 percent) or Florida (13 percent).
The study did not have a breakdown of Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox), Modern Orthodox, Reform and Conservative, and non-observant Jewish voting patterns. Polls have shown that Haredi Jews are supporting Trump.