Monday, May 27, 2019

Young Jews Might Really Be a Touch(!) More Conservative

I crowed a bit at the recent poll showing Donald Trump has an abysmal 29/71 approval among Jews, and a bit more at the effort by GOP Jewish groups to present this as good news.

But dig a little deeper into the data and you do find something more interesting: younger Jews are at least a little less anti-Trump than our older compatriots. Millennial Jews (35 and younger) give Trump his best net favorability rating -- and that's after Orthodox Jews are excluded (the pollsters actually don't give the breakout with Orthodox Jews included, but eyeballing it their inclusion would probably see Trump's favorables among Millennials rise to the mid-to-high 30s).

Now "best" is pretty relative -- it's still a wretched 33/67. But it beats Gen Xers (30/70), Boomers (25/75), and Greatest/Silent Generation (22/78). (The very youngest Jews -- just those under 30 -- are slightly more anti-Trump than "Millennials" writ large. So maybe it's my cohort -- the 30-to-35 year olds -- who are the problem, though more likely that's just a statistical blip).

I don't know exactly what to make of this. The narrative, of course, is that the youth are liberal and the elders are less so. Then again, maybe it's not surprising that the generation that lived through the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath would be even more aggressively anti-Trump than today's comparatively coddled kids.

The big question, for me, is the degree to which these opinions cut with or against other demographic correlations. For example, one possible explanation for more ambivalence among younger Jews is bad experiences with extreme left-wing politics in college. Yet this would cut against normal demographic findings where college education correlates to greater anti-Trump sentiment. Now, I'd be extremely surprised if Jews with college education were more pro-Trump than those without -- that would be stunning if it were true. But it's possible that the liberalizing effect of college education on young Jews is weaker than it is on non-Jews of the same generation -- and that would still be quite revealing.

Basically, it'd be interesting (it's always interesting, but unfortunately also expensive) to chop the sample up into finer bits. How do Jewish opinions on Trump compare when you start controlling for variables like college education (Jews are disproportionately well-educated, which in turn correlates to liberalism); race (Jews are disproportionately White -- yes, for this purpose we are -- which correlates to conservatism); wealth, urban residence, etc.? Such inquiries can overturn some considerable established wisdom (one recent study, for example, found that controlling for relevant social positionality American Jews are less politically-engaged than comparable non-Jews)

Indeed, similar questions can be asked about whether the "youth", generally, are actually more liberal, or just more diverse (a greater proportion of young people are non-White, but are White Millennials any less conservative than White people generally? What happens if we start controlling for urban residence, education, etc.?).

Anyway, it's easy to read too much into this -- especially since, again, we're talking about the difference between "overwhelmingly anti-Trump" and "really overwhelmingly anti-Trump". But it does present at least a slight corrective to the narrative that young Jews today are actually a vanguard of leftism compared to the staid centrism of their elders.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In the absence of more complete methodological reporting, it's highly suspect of the JEI to state that the 33% Millennial "strongly approve" is actually greater than any other age cohort's. As this survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.2, that means each (smaller) cut of the data will have an even greater MOE. Therefore, the 33% may actually be smaller than the Gen-X 30%, and in the absence of more information, potentially even the 22% of the oldest Jews.