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The Jewish Factor in Blue States

A correspondent writes:

I recently read your book on American voting. Throughout the book, I was struck by the fact that there was almost no analysis or consideration of the Jewish factor in the phenomena and paradoxes that you ponder. As a (Jewish) doctoral student who studies Jewish intellectual productions and political patterns and proclivities since the 1850s, both in the United States and elsewhere, I could not help but think that the Jewish factor should go at least some way toward explaining why rich states like New York and California vote Democrat and why rich voters in rich states, although tending Republican, are less likely to do so than in poor red states, where almost no Jews live and where there is limited Jewish influence in the local media, academia, politics, and intellectual culture. After all, in states like New York and California, I would be surprised if Jews were not a large proportion of the upper-class as well as an even larger proportion of the upper-class who vote Democrat and the journalists who promote various forms of liberal ideology. Jews are a small group, but influential in their areas of concentration. Further, their political orientation and behaviour has been anomalous for decades and does not clearly follow trends in the wider gentile society (this being the focus of my own research). As to why the trends that you study between blue-states and red-states have emerged clearly since the 1980s, I wonder to what extent wealthy white Protestants, a mainstay of the Republican party, were more likely after the Second World War to leave areas like New York or Los Angeles where Jews are such a significant part of the affluent and influential, and thereby to reveal tendencies that were present yet not as noticeable. I recognize that these considerations are likely insufficient as a full explanation, but I intuit that they are possibly of some importance.

Funny timing to get this just around when I saw the Podhoretz book. Anyway, I think my correspondent might have a point. Jews can’t be making the difference just by numbers—Connecticut, for example, is only 3% Jewish—but there is certainly a large Jewish influence in east-coast and big-city culture. And, meanwhile, many of the rich Protestants have either moved away or switched to the Democratic Party. I’m not sure how to put this all together, but it’s an interesting point.


  1. TGGP says:

    Steve Sailer already reviewed Podhoretz' book, helpfully providing a graph over time of the share of the Jewish vote.

    By "rich Protestants" don't you mean "mainline Protestants"? Interestingly, that used to be as good an indicator of Republicanism as evangelical Christianity is today.

  2. Andrew Gelman says:

    If you follow the links in my review of the Podhoretz book, you'll see some graphs of the vote of Jews (and other religious groups) over time. These graphs show that, indeed, mainline Protestants in 1968 were as Republican as Evangelical Protestants are in 2004. These graphs are also in Red State, Blue State.

  3. TGGP says:

    I was surprised to see that even in 2004 mainline Protestants still leaned Republican while Catholics (the source of National Review and every conservative Supreme Court justice) were dead even. The half-assed David Brooksian pop-sociology I read online tends to assume the mainline is all liberal now. Possible explanations: latinos make up a larger share of Catholics now, so white Catholics may be more Republican than mainline Protestants, and the shrinking of the mainline (there are now less of them than evangelicals) resulted in many of the more liberal not affiliating with any religion but still being thought of as "culturally mainline".

  4. Steve Sailer says:

    I think some of the linkage between white Catholics and voting Democratic has to do with where you live. If you live in Chicago, for example, the real election for mayor — which is the election that will have the most direct impact on your life — is not the general election, it's the Democratic primary. So, it's not uncommon for people who would register Republican elsewhere to register Democratic in Chicago and other one-party cities so that they will have a vote in the Democratic primary.

    Probably the inverse is true in some Republican-dominated exurbs and small towns.

    If people were wholly cunning about these things, partisan self-identification wouldn't matter at the national level, but once you identify as, say, a Daley Democrat on the municipal level, you'll tend to vote for the guy Mayor Daley endorses on the national level.

  5. Steve Sailer says:

    To quantify the statement that "Jews are a small group, but influential in their areas of concentration," in 2009, the Atlantic Monthly came up with a list of the top 50 opinion pundits: half are of Jewish background.

    Over 1/3rd of the 2009 Forbes 400 are of Jewish background, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency's reporter who covers Jewish philanthropy.

    Joel Stein of the LA Times found in 2007 that people of Jewish background hold a large majority of the most powerful positions in Hollywood.

    This is not to say that influential Jews are at all united in what they favor. On the other hand, it is more or less true that Jews hold something of a veto over what topics are considered appropriate for discussion in the press, Jewish influence itself being the most obvious example of a topic that is off the table in polite society.

  6. Alex F says:

    @Steve Sailer — this is more or less irrelevant to your argument, but Chicago now has nonpartisan mayoral elections with, I think, no official primaries. I believe this started in 2003 (Google isn't being friendly to my queries).

  7. Steve Sailer says:

    Thanks for the update. I left Chicago in 2000.