The Jewish newspaper, The Forward has carried an article claiming that far fewer Jews voted for the GOP than claimed in a survey sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition. Jennifer Siegel suggests in her "Unaffiliated Jews Don't Count?" column of November 19, that the Republican Jewish Coalition survey of 1,000 Jewish voters in three states erred by not interviewing Jews who are not members of congregations. Hence the result, indicating 26% to 27% support for GOP candidate, is too high.
Yet neither she, nor Professor Stephen Cohen, whom she quotes as an authority on the subject, have any idea of the voting patterns of members of congregations or unaffiliated Jews in this last election with which to counter the RJC survey results. How does either Miss Siegel or Professor Cohen know that the unaffiliated Jews would have voted any differently than say, reform Jews, who provided 22% support for Republicans in the RJC survey? Add another big swath of Jewish voters at the 22% level (46% of the total Jewish population is unaffiliated according to Professor Cohen), and the new average would still be 24% to 25% for Republicans, not much different than the 26 to 27% level in the RJC survey.
Professor Cohen also states that in areas of "high Jewish residential density", Jews tend to vote more Republican, so the RJC survey, by interviewing Jews in 3 areas where they live in large numbers, biased its sample. I do not know what the Professor means by this, or what data he has at his disposal to defend that statement. Most Jews in this country live in areas of high Jewish residential density. Is Professor Cohen unaware of this? Jews don't live for the most part in isolated hamlets in the Rocky Mountain area, deep South, or farm-belt, but in selected suburbs and cities, in areas of high Jewish residential density. By this logic (illogic?) I guess Jews on the upper West Side of Manhattan must vote more Republican because of their large numbers in the borough.
Miss Siegel provides results from an alternative survey - the National Exit Poll data, which indicated that only 13% of Jews voted Republican in 2006. But is Miss Seigel aware that only 200 Jews self-identified as such in that survey? Is she aware that the Jewish percentage of the total national exit poll group population was less than 2%, while Jews due to their older average age, and higher than average turnout, make up as much as 3% of the actual national voting group? Can she explain this disparity? Does she have any idea where Jews were interviewed in the 249 precincts in which the exit poll survey was conducted? Does she know whether the Jewish group that was interviewed was a random sample of Jewish voters, that would include both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews and members of the various congregations? Does she have any statistical background that would enable her to claim that there is any reasonable basis to extrapolate the results of the 200 Jews interviewed in the exit polls to a voting population of 2.5 million Jewish voters?
Finally, there is a good reason why the RJC pollster chose competitive races to survey, where the Jewish vote mattered to the outcome. It is easy for a Jew in a state or district with a non-competitive race to support a candidate winning with 70% or more of the vote (e.g Clinton or Spitzer in New York). In a close race, the political preference is more meaningful.
The liberal Jewish press, of which The Forward is certainly a member, seems to be very agitated with the results of the RJC poll, which suggests that a reasonable number of Jews voted Republican this year (about a quarter of Jewish voters in the RJC survey). Why is it so troubling for liberal Jews to accept that some Jews think differently?