Saturday, June 21, 2008

Do American Jews think like wealthy immigrants? In an earlier analysis of General Social Survey data, I found that upwardly mobile immigrants (particularly those who are non-white and non-Christian) tend to move left politically, rather than right, as our precious neocons would have us believe.

But what about Jewish Americans? They are not a new, high-end immigrant group, but one gets the impression that they act like one. Immigrants are afraid of the anti-immigration sentiment associated with conservatives, and these fears seem to trump economic self-interest. Many Jews also seem concerned about intolerance--in this case antisemitism--which is also associated with the political right.

One way to test this idea is to see if wealthy Jews vote differently. If economic self-interest drives voting patterns, we should expect to see richer Jews vote for Republicans. If fear of intolerance dominates one's decision, Jewish voting patterns should not vary across economic groups.

To maximize sample size, I looked at the 2000 presidential election. I calculated that 30.4% of Jews making $110,000 or more annually at the time went for Bush. Only 19.5% of Jews making less than that voted Republican. So there is evidence that as Jews move up, some move right.

But on the other hand, 51.4% of all Americans voted for Bush (according to the GSS). So people with average incomes were much more likely to side with the Republicans than rich Jews. This supports the idea that a good part of what is driving the Jewish vote is something other than economic. Of course, it could be many things--abortion, for example--but at least the data do not contradict the idea that tolerance is an important concern for many Jews, and like wealthy immigrants, many don't trust Republicans.


  1. Anonymous11:49 PM

    I think you make an assumption error, that rich interests equal voting Republican.


    Why not the interests of the wealthy = voting Democrat? After all, many wealthy people (non-Jews) vote Democrat because the Party pursues things that wealthy people care about: Global Warming, Gay Marriage, etc.

    And why not Republican economic interests = voting of middle/working class, i.e. more anti-crime stuff, lower gas prices, lower taxes, etc.

  2. Anonymous6:56 PM

    The Republican Party's ties to fundamentalist Christianity surely doesn't help it among Jewish voters.

  3. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Don't remember who said it, but Jews were once described as "earning money like Episcopalians while voting like Puerto Ricans."

  4. Anonymous7:20 PM

    Apparently the author of the quote is Milton Himmelfarb.

    Jews always think Hitler is coming back. German Jews were very well-assimilated, and we know how that wound up.


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