Publisher’s Notebook: The Contours of Our Jewish Community
Snapshots From the 2018 Population Study
A stable population of 71,500 Jews in 31,500 Jewish households, but with significant demographic shifts beneath the surface that provide challenge and opportunity for the Detroit area Jewish community. That would be the summary finding of the 2018 Detroit Jewish Population Study when compared to similar studies completed in 2005 and 1989.
Released in September, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit-sponsored study supports some hypotheses about the community, including growth in the number of young adults who are staying or returning to the area. It rebuts others, showing a diminishing number of young adults who are living in the city of Detroit and the Downtown-Midtown area. It shows longer-term trends that could move the epicenter of the community from the Maple-Telegraph area in Bloomfield Township to the 10 and Greenfield area in Oak Park. And it suggests that our current strategy for providing services to senior adults will need revision.
Over the coming weeks, in print and on its digital platform, the Jewish News will offer insight on portions of the study with the intent of stimulating discussion about its potential meaning and impact.
We are blessed to live, work and play in one of the most respected Jewish communities in North America. We all have a stake in its continuing strength and success.
Disproportional Political Impact
The Detroit Jewish community takes Election Day seriously. Data from the study reveal that of the 68,600 persons 18 years of age or older residing in Jewish households, 96 percent are registered to vote. And of those, 94 percent (61,904) said they participated in the most recent statewide election (2016).
As a point of comparison, the U.S. Census estimates that in 2017, there were 455,018 persons 18+ residing in the city of Detroit. Of those, approximately 85 percent are registered to vote. And of those, approximately 25 percent (96,691) voted in the most recent election. While the city of Detroit has a potential voting population almost seven times larger than our Jewish community, actual voting turnout more typically is about 50 percent higher.
And while the study didn’t measure the intensity of political activity in the Detroit Jewish community, empirical evidence drawn from the filings of various political campaign committees suggest a high level of political contributions from members of the Jewish community.
The party affiliations of Jewish Detroiters, as measured by the population study, provided a few surprises and opportunities. American Jews, since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, have voted heavily Democratic (an estimated 71 percent voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016, 69 percent for President Barack Obama in 2012, and 78 percent for candidate Obama in 2008). However, when asked their party affiliations, 51 percent of Jewish Detroiters said they were Democrats, 15 percent Republicans and 34 percent Independents.
When the population study compared Detroit to 15 Jewish communities of similar size and composition, it had the second lowest number of registered Democrats. The number who affiliated with the Republican Party was average for these communities. However, the number who said they were Independents was the highest.
From the Detroit study, 40 percent of Orthodox said they were Republican. Sixty-one percent of Reform said they were Democrats. Almost 59 percent of females said they were Democrats. Just over 19 percent of all males said they were Republican.
For political candidates looking for Independent voters — who will cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election — the Detroit Jewish community could be a wise investment of their time and focus.
• Compared to other similarly situated Jewish communities, we have a low affiliation rate with the Democratic party and a higher likelihood to identify as political Independents. Why do you think this is so and what could be its significance in future election cycles?
• What more can be done to encourage higher proportions of Detroit registered voters to participate in elections?
Arthur Horwitz, Publisher and Executive Editor