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Jews in America: Trends in American Jewish Demography

by Ira Shenkin (Updated April 2007)

Numbers and Geography

  • While there is no agreement on the number of Jews in the U.S., nor whether that number is increasing or decreasing, it probably matters little in the ability of American Jews to have their say in the political system.

  • With most elections being decided by 1-5 percentage points, even a small minority can influence an election, particularly in States with somewhat larger percentages of Jews.
  • While the Jewish population has undergone a major geographic shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and the West, electoral votes have done the same.
  • Jews continue to concentrate in the most populous states with the most electoral votes.
  • Jews get elected to Congress even from states with very few Jews.
  • Jews do form a significant percentage of the population in some urban areas.

Political Party

  • More than 60% of Jews continue to identify as Democratic and only 14% as Republican.

  • Evidence shows a tendency away from Democratic and toward Independent, but not Republican, among younger Jews.
  • Females are more likely to identify as Democratic than are males.
  • Orthodox Jews are less likely to be Democratic and more likely to be Republican.
  • Since 1916, the percentage of Jews voting for the Republican candidate for President has varied from 10% to 45%. While in recent years, the percentage has been increasing, the percentage has been much higher at various times in the past.

Political Views

  • 56% of Jews identify as liberal, 21 % moderate, and 22% Conservative.

  • Orthodox Jews are less likely to identify as liberal and more likely to identify as conservative.
  • Although the majority of Jews are Democratic and the majority are liberal, a minority, although a significant minority, identifies as both liberal and Democratic.
  • Most Jewish organizations making statements on behalf of American Jews tend to speak from the liberal Democratic viewpoint, which does not seem to representthe majority of Jews.

Poltical Involvement

  • The vast majority of American Jews are registered to vote.

  • The percentage registered to vote is lower for Jews underage 35.
  • Nationally, about one-third of Jews are politically active, but again the percentage is lower for those under age 35.


  • Attachment to Israel is still strong, particularly among those who respond that their religion is Jewish (NJPS).

  • In local studies, high percentages of American Jews have been to Israel.
  • In local studies, emotional attachment to Israel is generally lower for younger Jews.
  • Although Israel is an important reason for Jewishphilanthropic giving, most American Jews want to seemore philanthropic dollars stay in the American Jewish community than go to Israel.

Demographic Indicators

  • American Jews are aging.

  • American Jews are well educated.
  • American Jews are of high income.
  • Only a small percentage of American Jews are Orthodox.
  • American Jews are highly intermarried.
  • Large percentages of American Jews are not formally part of the community.

Sources: Dr. Ira M. Shenkin, Director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami