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Obama and Jewish Voters

- October 24, 2008

A while back, I criticized a New York Times piece for blithely declaring that Jews were “drifting to the right” in presidential elections — which is not correct — and failing to cite any polling data to buttress anecdotal reporting about Obama’s problems winning over Jewish voters. The irony was that early polls did suggest that Obama was lagging among Jewish voters. In July, 61% said they would support him, significantly fewer than the 76% who supported Kerry, according to the 2004 national exit poll.

Apropos of my recent post on partisan loyalty comes this finding from a new Gallup survey of Jewish voters: 74% now say they plan to vote for him. Is The Great Schlep working? Probably not. But the finding nevertheless illustrates how campaigns predictably reinforce the predispositions of voters. As Paul Lazarsfeld and colleagues wrote in their study of the 1940 election:

bq. What the political campaign did, so to speak, was not to form new opinions but to raise old opinions over the thresholds of awareness and decision. Political campaigns are important primarily because they activate latent predispositions.

[ADDENDUM: See Tom Holbrook’s post on whether Jesse Jackson’s remark has hurt Obama among Jewish voters.]