Jews and their Politics:
Unpacking a New Survey of Jewish Voters in Los Angeles
By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.
This week, the Pat Brown Institute of California State University Los Angeles released its fourth study of ethnic group voting patterns. This latest survey focused on Jewish American voters, with the previous studies focusing on Asian American, Latino-American and African American voters in Los Angeles County. The study involved some 1800 registered LA County Jewish voters, making it one of the largest Jewish political studies in a major metropolitan area in recent years. It was designed to reflect the different sectors of the Jewish community by age, gender, religious observance, and ethnic-orientation.
This represented the first study of LA Jews since the 1997 Jewish Federation Population Study and was most likely the largest sampling ever undertaken examining this County’s Jewish political and voting patterns. Los Angeles is identified as the third largest Jewish population base in the world, outside of New York and Jerusalem, home to some 600,000 Jews.
- LA Jews remain overwhelmingly liberal and politically active!
- Jews vote! 78% voted in 2016; 71% did so in 2018; this is compared with 65% and 55% of the general LA County voter base for the same two election cycles.
- Among those surveyed, 75% of LA Jews expressed their disapproval of President Trump, with 21% endorsing his policies and actions.
- One in Five LA Jews define themselves as “conservative.”
- 75% of LA Jews believe that it is important that Israel exist as a Jewish State; while 65% of Jews are critical or somewhat critical of Israel government policies.
- Anti–Semitism is a major concern for LA Jews (75%); a view shared across political and ideological lines.
- Jews are deeply committed to social justice and equality (70%).
- The Holocaust is seen as an essential component to their identity (67%).
- 83% of Los Angeles Jews identify as “white,” while 17% define themselves “as other than white” (Hispanic, Black, Native American, etc.)
- Currently, of all of the presidential candidates, Senator Elizabeth Warren enjoys the broadest support with 38% (Joe Biden: 15%; Bernie Sanders: 14%; with the remaining candidates garnering less than 10%)
Breaking Out the Numbers:
The levels of political activism and engagement are significant, as these five indicators would suggest:
- 96% talk with family and friends about politics
- 77% report having signed petitions or having sent letters
- 62% indicate that they have made political contributions
- 38% attended public meeting or government agency hearing
- 44% indicated that they had participated in a political rally, protest or march
When examining the social welfare issues, here are the findings:
- Same-Sex Marriage 89%
- Abortion 86%
- Gun Control 83%
- Immigration 72%
- Affordable Care Act 71%
This high civic engagement is reflected in the diversity of news sources that Jews employ:
- 68% from newspapers
- 56% from conversations with family and friends
- 53% from social media
- 46% from radio, and
- 40% from blogs and websites
The survey points as well to the generational differences in connection with employing news and informational resources.
Realities and Concerns:
By contrast, Orthodox Jews surveyed here (and as reported elsewhere) appear to be “strong Republicans” (43%), with President Trump receiving a 70% approval rating. 15% of Orthodox Jews are “Strong Democrats” as compared to 40% of all Jewish Democrats.
Of concern, as the study reflects the various household income brackets, those Jews earning under $50,000 and more specifically, those reporting incomes between $20,000-$30,000 represent today the “poor and near poor.” 7% of the respondents indicated that they were unable to afford to live on their own. The wellbeing of these individuals and families ought to be a primary concern for our communal institutions.
This survey confirms the large numbers of Jews who can be defined as “religious nones.” 63% of those interviewed identified as “ethnic” Jews, with only 25% describing themselves as Jews by religion.
How important is being Jewish in your life? 58% of the survey participants indicated that it was “very important” and “somewhat important” compared to 38% who responded that it was “not important.”
Millennial Jews (many from one Jewish parent households) carry multi-identities (white/black/Hispanic-gay-Democrat- and more).
If the study shows us anything, Jews remain politically passionate, willing to get involved, and most certainly take pride in being “Jewish.”
Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. His writings can be found on his website, www.thewindreport.com. Dr. Windmueller is a board member of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA and served on the research team for this LA Jewish Voter Survey.
 As there has been no formal Jewish population study of Los Angeles Jewry since the late 1990’s, various estimated numbers are being employed.