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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Political Geography of Jewish Voters

Conservative pundit Michael Barone writes in the Washington Examiner about Tuesday’s Democratic victory in FL-19, attributing Ted Deutch’s win over Republican Ed Lynch to the fact that “few districts have larger Jewish percentages than Florida 19,” as well as to Lynch’s weak, underfunded campaign. Barone sees Deutch’s victory as further confirmation that the Obama Administration’s policy toward Israel has not hurt the Democrats’ credibility with American Jews. Barone reached the same conclusion after analyzing voting patterns in the Jan. 19 MA Senate election. (See also the TDS March 24 post on the topic).
It’s good to know that Jewish voters remain a strongly pro-Democratic constituency. Dems would be in big trouble if they began to tilt Republican in this cycle. But what is more interesting about Barone’s op-ed is his description of the geographic distribution of Jewish voters in the context of the November elections. According to Barone, co-author with Richard E. Cohen of The Almanac of American Politics 2010:

What are the implications for the November elections? Jewish voters are very unevenly distributed throughout the United States, as this estimate of Jewish populations by state indicates. About 2.2% of Americans are Jewish—a decline in percentage over the years; in the 1940s about 4% of the nation’s voters were Jewish. The Jewish percentage is higher than the national average in only nine states and the District of Columbia; it’s identical to the national average in Illinois. Some 54% of American Jews live in just three states (New York, California, Florida); 78% live in eight states (those three plus New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland). Four of these states have potentially seriously contested Senate races (California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois). The Jewish percentages of the population in these states are 3.3%, 3.7%, 2.3% and 2.2%. The Jewish percentages of the electorate would likely be somewhat higher in each case; the 2008 exit poll shows them at 4%, 4%, 4% and 3%.
…In what districts do Jewish voters comprise a large critical mass—say, about 20% of the electorate? My list, based on long observation, would include the following: CA 27, CA 28, CA 30, CA 36, CT 4, FL 18, FL 19, FL 20, FL 22, IL 9, IL 10, MD 3, MD 8, MA 4, MA 8, MI 9, NV 1, NJ 5, NJ 8, NJ 9, NJ 11, NY 3, NY 4, NY 5, NY 7, NY 8, NY 9, NY 14, NY 15, NY 17, NY 18, NY 19, OH 11, PA 2, PA 6, PA 7, PA 13. Only a few of these districts are represented by Republicans (FL 18, IL 10, NJ 5, NJ 11, NY 3, PA 6), of which the only one in play is IL 10, where incumbent Mark Kirk is running for the Senate. Of the Democratic seats, I see only a few which look like they might be seriously contested (CT 4, FL 22, MI 9, NY 4, NY 19, PA 7).

Barone concludes that, overall, the Jewish vote “will not be a major factor in the large majority of seriously contested Senate and House races.” However, what is important for Dems in this critical election year is that Jewish voter turnout continues at relatively high levels, particularly in the more hotly-contested districts, where a little extra targeted campaigning might make a big difference.

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