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Half Sigma Assertion That Jews More Conservative Than White Democrats Needs Qualification
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In pointing to a post by the orthogonally edifying TGGP, Half Sigma makes the following assertion:

Jews are more conservative on non-religious issues than white Democrats, and the
majority of Jews strongly oppose affirmative action.

TGGP uses the RACE variable for whites, which means the respondent chose “white” over “black” or “other”, instead of using RACECEN1, which includes 16 categories of which “white” is only one (and thus a slightly better measure of non-Hispanic whites).

Using the more specific racial category, the following table shows the percentage of all Jews and of white Democrats who take the conservative position on each of 20 politically salient issues. The more conservative group is shown in bold for each item:

Issue* All Jews White Dems
Affirmative Action 80.9% 85.0%
Legalize marijuana 46.4% 52.7%
Woman to abort for any reason 30.4% 46.6%
Legalize same-sex marriage 32.6% 31.8%
Capital punishment for murder 60.1% 64.5%
Availability of pornography 14.7% 31.6%
Suicide allowed for incurable disease 16.6% 30.5%
Man to work, woman to stay home 27.2% 28.7%
Government to reduce income differences 10.6% 6.1%
Minorities never fit into the mainstream 10.9% 12.4%
Restrictions on handguns 17.5% 18.3%
Gov’t providing healthcare to the sick 37.9% 58.8%
Immigration from Latin America 37.1% 45.6%
Serve in military when needed 31.5% 33.9%
Federal income taxes too high 58.4% 54.7%
Rich countries pay taxes to poor countries 37.5% 32.0%
Taxes on the rich 19.8% 18.7%
Taxes on the poor 43.6% 67.8%
Blacks should not intrude 10.9% 35.1%
Foreign aid 45.0% 58.8%

Half Sigma’s statement is only partially accurate. Jews are more ‘conservative’ on economic issues than white Democrats are–unsurprisingly so, since they tend to make a lot more money (it might be argued that favoring higher taxes on the poor is actually generally thought of as a conservative position, in which case Jews would be seen as more conservative than white Democrats).

But on every social issue, with the exception of a marginally more conservative Jewish position on same-sex marriage, whether it has a religious tinge to it or not, white Democrats are further to the right than Jews–again, an amalgamation that in addition to liberals includes self-described moderates and conservatives as well–are. And of course Jewish Democrats are even further to the left of Democratic gentiles than Jews as a whole are.


* The questions as posed to survey participants and the responses I judge to be indicative of a ‘conservative’ stance follow. If the question allows for a binary response and the popular conservative position is obvious, for the sake of brevity it is not included below.

Affirmative action — Are you for or against preferential hiring and promotion of blacks? Con = Oppose, strongly oppose

Legalize same-sex marriage — Homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another. Con = Disagree, strongly disagree

Availability of pornography — Which of these statements comes closest to your feelings about pornography laws: 1. There should be laws against the distribution of pornography whatever the age. 2. There should be laws against the distribution of pornography to persons under 18. 3. There should be no laws forbidding the distribution of pornography. Con = Response 1

Man to work, woman to stay home — It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family. Con = Agree, strongly agree

Government to reduce income differences — Here is a card with a scale from 1 to 7. Think of a score of 1 as meaning that the government ought to reduce the income differences between rich and poor, and a score of 7 meaning that the government should not concern itself with reducing income differences. What score between 1 and 7 comes closest to the way you feel? Con = 7

Minorities never fit into the mainstream — To what extent do you agree or disagree that ethnic minorities will never fit into American culture? Con = Agree, strongly agree

Gov’t providing healthcare to the sick — How successful do you think the government in America is nowadays at providing healthcare for the sick? Con = Quite unsuccessful, very unsuccessful

Immigration from Latin America — Should immigration from Latin America be increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot? Con = Decreased a little, decreased a lot

Serve in military when needed — As far as you are concerned personally on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is not at all important and 7 is very important, how important is it to be willing to serve in the military at a time of need? Con = 7

Rich countries pay taxes to poor countries — People in wealthy countries should make an additional tax contribution to help people in poor countries. Con = Disagree, strongly disagree

Taxes on the rich — Generally, how would you describe taxes on the rich in America today? We mean all taxes together, including social security, income tax, sales tax, and all the rest. Con = Too high, much too high

Taxes on the poor — Generally, how would you describe taxes on the rich in America today? We mean all taxes together, including social security, income tax, sales tax, and all the rest. Con = Too high, much too high

Blacks should not intrude — Blacks shouldn’t push themselves where they’re not wanted. Con = Slightly agree, strongly agree

Foreign aid — Regarding foreign aid, tell me whether you think we’re spending too much money on it, too little money, or about the right amount. Con = Too much

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Wow. I seriously had no idea Jews as a whole were that far left. WHat about all the conservative Jews in the Bush administration? Then again, there were conservative blacks in the bush administration too … maybe liberalism somehow naturally appeals to minorities at the high and low end of the income and/or IQ scales, but not the middle.

  2. The liberalism of Jews on social issues is all the more surprising when you consider that a far from trivial percentage of Jews are Orthodox or Hasidic, and almost by definition those groups take conservative views on social issues.


  3. SC,

    Guys like Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz could still fit pretty comfortably into the Jewish political mainstream as indicated by the table in the post. Were there any socially conservative Jewish guys in the Bush administration?


    The GSS breaks Jews down into four categories, distributed as follows:

    Orthodox – 7.8%
    Conservative – 27.7%
    Reform – 44.8%
    None of these – 19.7%

    Knock the orthodox contingent out, and Jews as a group will shift another 6 or 7 points to the left.

  4. It's not entirely clear whether these percentages are positions these groups take for themselves or what they would like to see promoted for the general masses.

  5. Personality traits. I feel they are the key to all of this. You have seen Bryan Caplan's post (of Econlog) where he associates political views and ideology with the Big Five, right?

    "For social liberalism, they once again find that it is associated with higher Openness and lower Conscientiousness. For economic liberalism (in the American sense of lower support for free-market policies), though, they get a much more thorough profile. Economic liberals are less Extroverted, more Agreeable, less Conscientious, less Stable (i.e. more Neurotic), and more Open. Or if you flip the perspective, free-marketeers are more Extroverted, less Agreeable, more Conscientious, more Stable, and less Open."

    It seems clear that personality may be the principal driver of political ideology, like I've long suspected.

    Let me illustrate by referring back a topic we all love.

    For example, I think that certain customs that the Ashkenazi have long practiced has helped determine their modern IQ profile.

    I have read about two or three papers now saying that there is some evidence that IQ is more determined along the maternal line.
    The fact that –

    1) Judaism, once it spread from the Semitic lands, became the religion of many of the elite of Rome who intermarried into them, (verified by admixture studies), and who also might have possibly had higher IQ


    2) That whether or not one is considered a Jew depends on whether or not your mother was Jewish,

    and finally,

    3) That the Ashkenazi have long prohibited polygyny according to the teachings of Rabbenu Gershom since the 1000s

    seems suggestive to me. It seems that they may have been keeping intelligence "in the family" for a long time. Possibly other traits, too.

    Controversial? Dangerous? Yeah, I know. In any case, I still have much love for the Jews, as you all should know by now.

    Separate leftism from the leftists.

  6. Billare,

    It's very encouraging to see guys like Caplan picking up on this. Jonathan Haidt offers another interesting perspective on the relationship between ethical conceptions and political orientation. His TED presentation offers a good quick look into it.

  7. "I have read about two or three papers now saying that there is some evidence that IQ is more determined along the maternal line."

    Is there much evidence for this?

  8. Billaire,

    What admixture studies show that Jews intermarried with the elite of Rome?

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I doubt any admixture study could conclusively show that ancient Jews intermarried with the elites of Rome. We can't know for certain the genetic profile of the ancient Roman population except by problematic studies of few surviving and uncontaminated ancient samples. We certainly can't reliably separate the genetics of the Roman elite from the rest of the Roman population on that tenuous basis.

    What the more recent studies of Jewish genetics (e.g. have demonstrated is greater evidence of admixture among Ashkenazim than earlier studies based on Y-chromosomes such as the study published in 2000 by Hammer. These data as well as Gregory Cochran's make it appear that the bulk of admixture occurred with SE European populations (i.e. those with an already high frequency of neolithic ancestry). That fact makes it seem likely that such admixture occurred early on, when the ancestors of Ashkenazim lived in Anatolia, the Levant, North Africa, Greece and Italy but had not ventured north of the Alps in any numbers. Moreover, on historical grounds, it is more likely that admixture occurred during that period (i.e. the pre-Christian Roman Empire) because there were not official sanctions against Jews and gentiles marrying. Such sanctions did exist in medieval Europe.

  10. Anonymous [AKA "Tell O\'Prompter"] says:

    Oustanding post, I am flabbergasted by this data, in my country Jews are a hell of a lot more Marxist than this data suggests.

    I propose a "Zelig Theory", that they do to some degree adopt the values of whichever country they happen to be in at the moment.

    Not to bash, but Half Sigma recently describe the very gay sponsor of an illegal alien amnesty bill, Lindsey Graham, as a "hardline conservative". I don't think HS knows his/her ass from his/her elbow when it comes to politics. Jews are somewhat left wing, even as compared to white Dems – this is news to anybody?

    "WHat about all the conservative Jews in the Bush administration? "

    They weren't conservatives. Just because the NYT calls someone a conservative – Bill Krystol being the most egregious example – doesn't make it so. Ideologies are badges one earns, not hats one wears. You have to actually say and do conservative stuff to be a conservative.

    "The liberalism of Jews on social issues is all the more surprising…"

    Oy yoy yoy.

    The "social" in social conservative is superfluous, by the way; you absolutely cannot be fiscally conservative and socially liberal; the fiscal collapse of California due to illegal immigration is one notable example of why not, the bajillion dollar cap and trade deal is another, the inability of American firms to compete due to AA and resulting drop in tax revenue yet another. The most socially "liberal" congressmen are not surprisingly the most fiscally "liberal" too, this has been quantified.

    Generally, ethnic minorities anywhere tend towards not being conservative, it does not behoove them to conserve the values of the dominant ethnic group.

    Yes, I know, latinos and blacks tend to be more socially conservative on gay marriage and such, but porn is a good example, consider: what exactly is it they are trying to preserve? The values of some other ethnic group?

    No, they're not invested enough, it's not their ass on the line if society breaks down, which explains some of why blacks and latinos vote en masse for the Dems despite the Dems not really representing their social values. This of course conflicts with the aforementioned Zelig Theory, but there are multiple vectors in play here.

  11. FuturePundit,

    I apologize, I've been busy, but I will readily find you my source paper for the first assertion shortly (hopefully). [I'm not at an academic institution ATM, so I can't quite double check it through an ungated link.] The next anonymous is correct, I may have overreached in what I said – the paper I referred to used genetic methods to trace back the location of a possible founder effect within the Ashkenazi to Rome, and additionally I have read within monographs of historicity such as the Blackwell Companion to Roman Religion that conversion to Judaism amongst the elite of Rome was not rare, but I think I was incorrect in stating that admixture studies proved the combining of the two theses. My apologies.

  12. I just realized the book referenced isn't a monograph, but rather a compilation of essays. It reads smoothly like one, anyway.

  13. TellO,

    Yes, the description of Lindsey Graham, who ran to the left of his Democratic challenger in '08, as a "hardline conservative" was so absurd that I thought HS was surely being facetious.

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