The Dimensions of American Jewish Liberalism

By Steven M. Cohen

American Jewish Committee (AJC), November 1989

This study aims to trace the relative importance of education, income, parents' politics, religiosity, and other major influences on Jews' political attitudes through direct comparison with non-Jews, distinguishing between black and white non-Jews. It aims to answer where Jews stood politically in 1988, in what areas and to what extent are Jews more liberal than other Americans, and how can this be explained - specifically to what extent do Jewish values and group interests, as understood by individual Jews, influence their political ideas. [BREAK]Questions considered included general identification along the liberal/conservative spectrum, approval of Ronald Reagan, support of the democratic party, attitudes towards Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson relating to perceptions of anti-semitism, preferences for presidential candidates (among Jesse Jackson, Mario Cuomo, Michael Dukakis, and George Bush Sr, impressions of liberal lobby groups, including the ACLU, NOW, Planned Parenthood, and the NAACP, affirmative action, social welfare programs, taxing and spending, church and state, abortion, pornography, homosexuality and 'gay rights', capital punishment, certain symbolic political issues like the confirmation battle over Robert Bork, and attitudes towards the Soviet Union and South Africa. The factors examined as an influence on views included 'political socialization' - parental politics, the role of regional concentration, education, income, and religiousity. Some reasons theorized for liberalism among Jews include: education has a disproportionately liberalizing effect on Jews, the fact that relatively fewer Jews are religious, and even for those who are religiousity is less associated with conservatism, self interest in terms of anti semitism, separation of church and state, and general tolerance for non-conformist behavior perhaps inspired by a sense of marginality. It concludes that Jewish liberalism is deeply tied to a sense of being a minority and not quite belonging lies at the heart of American Jewish identity.

Topic: Political Behavior, Identity Formation, Politics

Genre: Report

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Cohen, Steven M. The Dimensions of American Jewish Liberalism. American Jewish Committee (AJC). November 1989:


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