Friday, October 31, 2008

Barack Obama and the Jewish Vote

By Marc Korman.

A recent poll found Barack Obama leading John McCain among Jewish voters 67% to 33%. This is a commanding lead, but how does it compare to previous Democratic presidential candidates?

In Maryland, 4.2% of the population is Jewish, over 235,000 people. There is also a substantial Jewish population in important swing states like Florida (over 653,000 people), Ohio (about 145,000 people), and Pennsylvania (about 285,000 people). So even though Jews make up just 2% of the national population, they could help swing the election.

Popular conception has been that Barack Obama has a problem with Jewish voters. Polling back in May indicated he could expect about 60% of Jews to support him, far less than supported John Kerry and Al Gore. The Obama campaign has taken such concerns seriously, forming Jewish outreach teams in several states, addressing a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and visiting Israel. People outside the campaign have also tackled the problem, perhaps most famously Sarah Silverman.

So how do Obama’s current numbers compare to previous Democratic nominees?

From 1928, when the Democratic nominee was New York Governor Al Smith, through all of the elections of Franklin Roosevelt, to the 1948 reelection of Harry Truman, 75% to 90% of Jews supported the Democratic candidate.

Jewish Vote For the Democratic Nominee By Year (1952-2004):


Barack Obama’s current 67% is still lower than any winning Democratic nominee’s share of the Jewish vote since World War II. But the good news is that he is doing better than expected and the number could continue to rise before Election Day. Of course, Barack Obama is doing better than Democratic nominees do in several other categories, so even if his share of the Jewish vote drops a bit, he could still have a great night next Tuesday.