Campaigns and elections

The Jewish vote

Sep 16 '11

John’s post about Obama’s popularity among Jews reminds me of a point that I made a few months ago and a few years back:

Why should we care about a voting bloc that represents only 2% of the population (and even if Jews turn out at a 50% higher rate than others, that would still be only 3% of the voters), most of whom are in non-battleground states such as New York, California, and New Jersey? Even in Florida, Jews are less than 4% of the population. I think a lot of this has to be about campaign contributions and news media influence. But, if so, the relevant questions have to do with intensity of opinions among elite Jews rather than aggregates.

This sort of concern is not restricted to Jews, of course. Different minority groups exercise political power in different ways. I just thought it was worth pointing out that this isn’t a pure public opinion issue but rather something with more indirect pathways.

But I get annoyed when pundits talk about the Jewish vote as if it’s about votes. I agree with John’s point that uniform partisan swing is a useful starting point in any discussion about public opinion swing.

In fact, I’d add “uniform partisan swing” to Hans Noel’s list of the top things political scientists know that most people don’t.