On Feb. 21, after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture, President Donald Trump spoke up about the recent threats of violence against Jewish communities across the United States.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he said.
Normally, comments like this from the president of the United States would hardly raise eyebrows. But after weeks of criticism in the press and from prominent Jewish leaders for a series of actions, comments and decisions by the administration—including an apparent refusal days earlier to openly condemn various reports of a rise in anti-Semitic activity in the country when asked by Jake Turx, a Jewish reporter for Ami Magazine—these remarks led the news cycle.
Later that day, a poll commissioned by New York Jewish Life (NYJL) went into the field. It asked a series of questions about politics and policy of voters in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods where this newspaper is distributed. Over the course of two nights we got responses from 951 voters, more than 88 percent of whom identified as Jewish and among whom there was a roughly even split of men and women.
An overwhelming 57 percent of the respondents told us they would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton if the election were held again. Clinton only received 33 percent of the vote from the sample, which targeted voters who live in specific neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Nassau County and a few other locations around the state including the Bronx, Albany and the Hudson Valley.
The numbers give us a glimpse into the divide between the thinking of predominantly Jewish communities and that of the rest of the New York City metro area. By comparison, Clinton received more than four times as many votes as Trump in the five boroughs.
That is not the only divide we saw in the numbers. A closer look at the crosstabs shows that in predominantly Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens where we polled, voters backed Trump by significant margins—62 percent in Brooklyn and 24 percent in Queens. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Clinton held a 53 percent edge over Trump in the heavily Jewish zip codes that NYJL polled.
The divide between the outer boroughs and Manhattan is not too surprising, considering the political and cultural diversity of the predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in and around New York City. Generally, we’d expect Manhattan to trend more liberal, with the outer boroughs more conservative. What is interesting is that one month into the Trump administration, these beliefs do not appear to have been altered by the string of negative headlines regarding Jewish relations that the president has garnered.
Since he has taken office, Jewish organizations and leaders have been quick to criticize the administration. The appointment of Steve Bannon, who has been criticized for making anti-Semitic comments in the past, as a senior adviser infuriated many. This was followed by the administration’s decision not to mention Jewish victims in a statement released on National Holocaust Remembrance Day, and then the delayed condemnation of the rise of anti-Semitic acts.
In each case, progressives are quick to use this as ammunition to make the case that Trump is not a friend to Jews, or to Israel. Our poll suggests these efforts are not really working. One explanation may be a lingering perception that the Obama administration was not friendly towards Israel, and a sense that the Trump administration will be a better partner.
We asked voters to tell us how they felt President Obama treated Israel during his eight years in office. The response was overwhelmingly negative: 43 percent said Obama was grossly unfair to Israel, 23 percent said he was unfair, 10 percent said he was neutral, 15 percent said he was favorable and 9 percent said he was very favorable to the country.
We then asked voters a similar question about how they thought the Trump administration would treat Israel, and the results almost flipped: 26 percent of voters said they expect him to be very favorable to Israel, 43 percent said favorable, 15 percent said neutral, 9 percent said unfair and 8 percent said grossly unfair.
The poll asked several other policy questions with a clear focus on voters’ opinions on issues important to Israel, which shed more light on the thinking of our audience. One question concerned thoughts on moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Roughly 41 percent of voters said moving the embassy was a good idea, 29 percent said it shouldn’t be moved and 30 percent were not sure.
On the controversial deal the Obama administration struck with Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we asked voters what the Trump administration should do, offering four specific approaches. The most popular response, given by 31 percent of voters, was that the United States should pull out of the deal as quickly as possible, minimizing negative impact globally and to that region of the world. We had 29 percent of voters say the United States should work to alter the deal to create better terms and conditions; 24 percent said the United States should stand by the agreement as long as Iran does. Finally, 16.5 percent of respondents said the United States should pull out immediately even if there are negative impacts globally and to that region of the world.
What’s clear from these responses is that the Israeli policy positions that President Trump has put forth are more popular among our audience than the positions taken by President Obama over the past eight years. It seems likely that many of the voters participating in the poll felt Hillary Clinton was likely to continue those policies, making Trump a more popular choice.
What is also clear from the poll is that the preference for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton is not a purely partisan divide. The poll showed relatively even splits on the controversial social issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. We also see in the poll that respondents generally have favorable opinions of two of New York State’s most prominent Democrats—Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Roughly 40 percent of voters said both Democrats are doing a good or great job. Roughly 37 percent said they are doing a fair job. And only about 22 percent said the two are doing a poor or awful job in their respective roles.
The mayor and governor have had an open feud over the past few years, with a general perception that de Blasio has been trying to position himself as more progressive than the governor. While this fight has created a clear divide among Democratic factions writ large, the two have made it a priority to show support for New York’s powerful Jewish communities and stand behind the Israeli government. The polls show that the two have been mostly successful in staying popular among voters in our distribution area.
While it is obvious to many, it is worth stating that New York State is home to a large and diverse population of Jews. These poll results in many ways back this up, while also providing useful insights that highlight stark differences in opinion. In coming weeks, NYJL will explore these numbers in more detail with a goal of explaining the results, identifying trends and telling the story of you, our readers
NOTE ON METHODOLOGY
In the past year, political opinion polls have come under great scrutiny for their fallibility in accurately predicting political campaign outcomes. So, why did we do a poll? The goal for us was to get a better understanding of the thinking of our audience, so we can be better at picking the stories that our readers want to see.
NYJL has a distribution of 25,000 newspapers in communities with large Jewish populations around the New York City metro area and into the Capital Region. The editorial focus of the paper is to reach cultural Jews interested in civic affairs, so we have intentionally chosen not to distribute the newspaper in several heavily Orthodox Jewish areas, because we don’t view them as home to our main audience.
Because of this, the poll intentionally targeted only the areas where we are distributing, so some geographic areas are oversampled, like Brooklyn, because our distribution will be higher in those places.
Our sample size was 951 registered voters, whom we contacted between Feb. 21 and Feb. 22. Roughly 88 percent of the respondents self-identified as Jewish.
The margin of error for this survey is 3.13 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval.
Zip Codes polled: 11215; 11213; 11210; 11234; 11218; 11235; 11235; 11223; 11375; 11374; 11415; 11367; 11691; 10002; 10023; 10024; 10025; 10463; 11559; 11598; 11516; 11096; 11557; 11050; 10020; 10021; 10022;10023; 10024; 10026; 10027; 11576; 11797; 11753; 11853; 11601; 11602; 11603; 11605; 11606; 11204; 11218; 11219; 11230. A small sample was also polled in Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.