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The Jewish Vote in 2004

According to the 2004 national NEP exit poll, Bush captured 25 percent of the Jewish vote in last November's election, compared to 74 percent for Kerry. That appeared to be a substantial improvement over Bush's performance in 2000, when the VNS exit poll credited him with only 19 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to 79 percent for Gore.

A new report, "The Jewish Vote in 2004: An Analysis", by The Solomon Project suggests Bush made considerably less progress with the Jewish vote than the figures quoted above indicate. The report points out that:

The National Election Pool (NEP) commissioned Edison/Mitofsky to conduct the 2004 exit poll. They interviewed 77,006 voters as they walked out of a polling station or (if the voter mailed his/her ballot) over the telephone. Almost 14,000 of these voters (268 of whom were Jewish) were part of the NEP’s “national survey;” the other voters were given a state-specific questionnaire. Most of the respondents were asked their religion, and 2% (weighted, 3%) indicated that they were Jewish, for a total of 1,511 Jewish respondents.

Due to the small size of the Jewish population compared to the rest of the electorate, NEP had difficulty achieving a correct distribution of Jewish voters throughout the nation. In the “national survey” alone, the Jewish respondents hail from only 21 of the 51 states (including the District of Columbia). As an example of disproportionate representation, Florida Jews made up 16% of this weighted sample, whereas the American Jewish Committee reported that 11% of American Jews live in the Sunshine State. New Jersey Jews, who constituted 4% of the national survey, are underrepresented compared to AJC’s estimate that 8% of American Jews reside in New Jersey.

If you use all of the Jewish respondents to the exit polls, not just those given the national questionnaire, and weight the respondents by their state's contribution to the national vote (as has been done with the Hispanic vote to produce a more reliable estimate of that group's 2004 vote), you get a different figure for the Jewish vote in 2004: 77 percent Kerry, 22 percent Bush.

That's a substantially less impressive improvement over Bush's performance in 2000. As the report notes:

When viewing only the two major parties, the two-party American Jewish vote was Kerry 78%, Bush 22%. Between 1996 and 2004, the Democratic two-party Jewish vote as compared to the national vote has been remarkably stable – 28% more Democratic than the national average in 1996, 30% more Democratic in 2000, and 29% more Democratic in 2004.

The report cites a host of other data reinforcing the conclusion that Bush's and the GOP's progress among Jewish voters has, by and large, been negligible. I recommend it to all those interested in separating fact from fiction about the contemporary Jewish vote in American politics.