For months, there has been a constant stream of claims that unlike their hip, Progressive grandchildren, many elderly Jews would refuse to vote for Barack Obama because he's black. Jon Stewart even did a segment on it, which was both funny and nasty. Not to mention Sarah Silverman's "Great Schlep," in which young progressive Jews were supposed to persuade their clueless grandparents that it's okay to vote for the black guy with the funny name. Why this was supposed to be a particular problem for older Jewish voters, despite their history of racial liberalism, but not for other older voters, who, say, supported Jim Crow, was rarely if ever explained.
It turns out that the most recent Gallup poll of Jewish opinion, released yesterday, shows that Jews 55 and older are supporting Obama 74 to 19 percent, and Jews ages 18 to 34 are supporting him by a significantly lower margin, 67 to 29 percent. This is especially surprising because of the large concentration of older Jews in South Florida, which McCain is vigorously contesting, while other areas with high concentrations of Jews--the New York area, Chicago, L.A., the Bay Area, Maryland--have been ceded to Obama, and he will win the overall vote in those areas by huge margins.
So it turns out, at least based on this poll, that things are exactly as past elections would have predicted. Older Jews are more liberal than are younger Jews, so they vote in greater numbers for the more liberal candidate.
The poll also shows Obama doing as well as Kerry among Jewish voters. That's a bit of a distortion, because if Obama gets about the same percentage of Jewish voters as did Kerry, but beats Kerry handily in the overall popular vote, he will actually do relatively worse among Jewish voters.
Nevertheless, Obama is doing somewhat better than I expected, according to this poll. I wrote a few months ago, that Obama was virtually guaranteed at least 50% of the Jewish vote, and McCain 15%. As for the rest,
the relevant implicit question is, "in whose social circle would I feel more comfortable?" In recent elections, it's been rather clear where most Jews thought they would "fit" better. With regard to McCain versus Obama, I think the question is very much up in the air.
I'd speculate (and it's only speculation), that with the Rev. Wright, who gave many Jews the willies, having faded almost entirely from the campaign, and with McCain having chosen Sarah Palin, who is extremely unpopular among Jewish voters, Obama is doing far better in this regard than could have been predicted in the Spring.