Importance of undecided Jewish voters dwindles as White House race widens

Private polling firms have not surveyed the American Jewish community – either nationwide or on a state-by-state basis – since the end of the summer.

October 20, 2016 21:06
2 minute read.
US debate

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US, October 9, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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NEW YORK -- In the final stretch of a general election campaign, pollsters and campaign strategists have precious time and resources to figure out which demographic groups still have large numbers of persuadable voters. And the American Jewish community this year is not one of those groups.

Private polling firms have not surveyed the American Jewish community – either nationwide or on a state-by-state basis – since the end of the summer. That’s because pollsters have already identified who within the group can still be swung either way and where those people reside.

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Persuadable Jewish voters in this election appear to be more conservative, observant, and concerned over US relations with Israel, according to several Democratic and Republican operatives. They are few in number, and as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton widens her margin of support over her rival, Republican Donald Trump, they become less statistically significant in determining the final outcome.

“The bigger the margin, the less important any specific group is,” said Mark Mellman, one of the nation’s leading pollsters and an expert on polling of the Jewish community.

A shift of 5-10% within this voter demographic – roughly 500,000 Floridian voters identify as Jewish – is not statistically significant enough to sway an election that appears, at this point, firmly in Clinton’s favor. Four years after US President Barack Obama defeated his GOP rival there by less than a single point, Clinton leads Trump in the state by an average of four points.

Even if this were a closer race, campaign operatives seeking fresh data so close to the election would need time to analyze and strategize based on their findings. Internal and private polling, which often does not reach the public, is worth a campaign’s investment only if it can act based on the data they receive.

But there are additional reasons why the Jewish vote, in this particular election season, has been so infrequently polled.

“There isn’t usually much data on Jews,” Mellman added. “But the main reason why there’s less, honestly, is that folks like Gallup that used to do regular horse race polling and would aggregate Jewish voters over time aren’t doing that anymore.”

Additionally, Jewish organs of the two parties – the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council – are conducting less polling and field work than they have since 2008, in part due to financing, sources close to the organizations say.

The Republican group has long out-raised its Democratic counterpart, but, in comparison, has struggled with its finances this year, with several of the most prominent Jewish Republican political donors staying away from the presidential race altogether.

The RJC as a result has campaigned less for their nominee this cycle – Trump has graced virtually none of their advertisements or even on social media – and appears more focused instead on preserving their down ballot candidates.

National exit polls released on election night will likely include figures measuring the Jewish vote. Pollsters are sure to debate the veracity of the data, however, as they have with exit polls in the past.

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