Exit polls point to Trump gains among Jewish voters

Surveys show president picked up as much as 6% more Jewish support compared to 2016, and even more in important battleground of Florida, though some question findings

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

An attendee wears a 'Make America Great Again' kippah before US President Donald Trump speaks at an annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on April 6, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP/John Locher)
An attendee wears a 'Make America Great Again' kippah before US President Donald Trump speaks at an annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on April 6, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP/John Locher)

Several polls released Wednesday indicated that US President Donald Trump enjoyed an increase in Jewish support compared to the previous presidential vote, though the lion’s share of the community’s ballots continued to go for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

A survey from The Associated Press’s VoteCast showed that Trump won 30% of the Jewish vote, compared to 69% for Biden. This was six percentage points higher than his performance in 2016, when he won 24% of the Jewish vote, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 71%, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted at the time.

The AP national survey polled 110,000 Americans with 3,300 of them being Jewish by self-definition. Its margin of error was 0.4 percentage points.

An exit poll commissioned by the Republican Jewish Coalition offered an even stronger showing for Trump, albeit with a smaller sample size.

Of the 600 Jewish voters polled, it found that 30.5% cast their ballots for the Republican president, compared to 60.6% who cast ballots for Biden. The poll had a margin of error of 4%.

However, a national survey from liberal pro-Israel lobby J Street with 800 respondents indicated that Jewish voters favored Biden over Trump 77%-21%, which aligns closer to past trends.

Defending the veracity of his results, J Street pollster Jim Gerstein said that his results were likely more accurate because he had weighted the survey based on demographic trends, thereby making sure to not give disproportionate representation to Jewish denominations that may be more likely to lean Republican or Democrat.

While the survey only included 80 voters who identify as Orthodox, it nominally confirmed a trend that has seen more religious Jews shifting heavily toward the GOP, with 79% of them voting for Trump.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump commented on the vote results in the early hours of November 4, in Delaware and the White House respectively. (Getty Images)

An American Jewish Committee poll last month showed Jews favoring for Biden over Trump 75% to 22%.

RJC chair Matt Brooks claimed Wednesday that the latest polls prove that attempts by the Democratic party to frame the Jewish vote as being “overwhelmingly Democratic ring hollow.”

He added that accounts of Jews heavily favoring Biden were only relevant for Jewish enclaves in states that consistently vote Democrat, making them inconsequential.

“That doesn’t win you presidential elections,” he said.

The AP survey showed a significant drop for Democrats among Jews in Florida in particular, compared to the 2016 election. Trump is projected to win the state by an even higher margin than four years ago.

Biden won 58% of the Jewish vote in Florida, compared to 41% who voted for Trump, according to the exit poll.

That would be a 10-point drop for Biden and a 13-point gain for Trump, compared to the Jewish vote in 2016, according to a J Street national poll at the time.

In 2012, Barack Obama carried the Jewish vote in Florida 68% to 31%.

However, the AP exit poll had a sample size of 3,698, with just 5% or 185 of respondents identifying as Jewish.

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America downplayed the Florida survey.

A voter fills out their ballot at Public School 160 on November 3, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images/AFP)

“This is an exit poll. Exit polls give a snapshot. They’re not statistically credible depictions of special demographics,” she told The Times of Israel. “I don’t think we know what the Jewish vote was in Florida. One hundred eighty-five people doesn’t tell you much other than what 185 people think.”

She maintained that the J Street survey, which polled 800 Jews, was a more accurate depiction of the Jewish vote.

“There’s no question that Jewish voters turned out overwhelmingly for Joe Biden last night and it may be the reason he’s going to win,” she said.”While this is not the overwhelming victory we had hoped for, narrow margins in Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona can be attributed to not just overwhelming Jewish support for Biden, but increased Jewish support for the Democratic party since 2016.”

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