‘There is no Christian vote’ ran the headline for Nick Spencer’s article on The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ pages on 26 April, trying to assess how significant faith voting would be in next Thursday’s general election.
But is the same true of the Jewish vote? Thanks to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), we now have some answers to this question for the first time since 1995 when the JPR collected data for a report on The Social and Political Attitudes of British Jews.
The latest data are extracted from an online survey of self-identifying British Jews aged 18 and over in January and February 2010, undertaken primarily to measure the attitudes and attachments of Jews to Israel. This study was commissioned by the Pears Foundation, conducted by JPR, with fieldwork overseen by Ipsos MORI.
Although the full results of this survey have yet to be published, JPR has randomly selected 1,000 responses and analysed the answers to the question on party political preferences (as opposed to the more explicit current voting intention).
This subset of data was published on 29 April in David Graham’s paper The Political Leanings of Britain’s Jews, which can be downloaded from:
There is also a much shorter news report in the Jewish Chronicle for 30 April: Simon Rocker, ‘Who Votes for Whom?’.
Overall, the Jewish population is evenly split between Labour (31%) and the Conservatives (30%), with 11% favouring the Liberal Democrats, 8% other parties and 15% undecided at the time of fieldwork.
Younger Jews are more likely to be undecided, and less likely to support the Conservatives, than older respondents. Conservative preferences rise from 24% for those aged 18-39 to 29% for 40-59 to 33% for 60+. Support for Labour does not vary with age.
Jewish men are considerably more likely (36%) than Jewish women (22%) to prefer the Conservatives. Women are more likely than men to be Labour (33% against 28% for men), Liberal Democrats (12% against 10%) and undecided (16% against 14%).
Jews who are married are more likely to prefer the Conservatives (34%) than never married Jews (22%) or cohabitees (12%). Single (never married) Jews are more likely to prefer Labour (34%) than married respondents (28%). Liberal Democrats draw disproportionate support (24%) from cohabitees.
Self-employed Jews are more likely to be Conservatives (39% compared with 29% for Labour), whereas full-time employees prefer Labour (38% versus 25% Conservative). Retired Jews also prefer the Conservatives over Labour (37% and 29% respectively).
Jews demonstrate different political leanings depending upon where they live. Respondents in Hertfordshire (54%) and West London (46%) are overwhelmingly Conservative. In North and East London 40% prefer Labour, as do 35% in Northern England.
Jews with a self-assigned secular outlook prefer Labour, those with a religious outlook the Conservatives. The Conservative leaning grows from 21% among the secular to 29% of the somewhat secular, 38% of the somewhat religious and 45% of the religious. The Labour leaning moves in the opposite direction (42% for the secular to 24% for the religious).
Conservative support is disproportionately to be found among Central Orthodox synagogues than Reform synagogues (48% against 28%). For Labour the reverse is true (22% versus 34%). Respondents who do not belong to any synagogue are most likely to support Labour (40%).
Since Jews only constitute approximately 0.5% of the electorate, these trends are unlikely to have a seismic effect nationally. However, the community is highly concentrated spatially (for example, in Greater London and the South-East and in Greater Manchester), so in particular constituencies, especially the marginals in the 2005 general election, the Jewish vote could be influential on 6 May. However, the beneficiaries are likely to be Conservatives and Labour in equal measure. So there is no distinctive Jewish vote, after all!