Catholic vote won race for Turner

The results of the recent congressional race in Anthony Weiner's former district continue to be spun into a tale of how Jewish voters are supposedly abandoning President Obama for not being sufficiently pro-Israel. The facts show otherwise, though. And a case can be made that my new local representative, Republican Bob Turner, won on the Catholic vote.I don't think any exit polls were done for Turner's race with David Weprin. So the most accurate information on how the vote came in by religious affiliation is found in a Siena College poll taken shortly before the election. It showed Turner with a six-point lead, pretty close to the outcome of the race.The crosstabs show Jewish voters favoring Weprin, 51 percent to 45 percent for Turner. That's a poor showing for a Democrat, no doubt, but consider how the Catholic vote broke down: 62 percent for Turner, 33 percent for Weprin.

Catholics are a swing vote, and they swung to Turner. In that context, it's not surprising that Turner also did well among Jewish voters. Another factor: the district's growing number of Orthodox Jews, who were a key vote bloc for Rudy Giuliani in his mayoral campaigns.Israel was the most important factor for 16 percent of Jewish voters, the poll found - a significant number, but far from overriding the economy and other issues.These facts do not add up to the picture offered by many pundits, such as Dick Morris writing in The Hill: "Alienated by his [Obama's] perceived anti-Israeli bias, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews voted in massive numbers for Turner."The Gallup Poll shows that Obama retains substantial popularity with Jewish voters. The numbers are down, but as The New York Times said, this simply shows that "Jews are no more disillusioned than other Americans are with Mr. Obama."The Siena poll found that the economic recovery was the leading reason voters turned to Turner (47 percent, as opposed to 15 percent for Weprin). The biggest issue for those supporting Weprin was entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare (44 percent for Weprin, 14 percent for Turner).The bottom line is the unsurprising conclusion that disappointment with the pace of economic recovery drove the election. Weprin held the 55-and-over vote by presenting himself as a defender of Social Security and Medicare. Independents went heavily for the Republican.It was 2010 all over; the debate over Israel was no more than a small factor. And if we must analyze the race by religion, the argument can be made that the Catholic vote was the determining factor.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

Also by this author
Reporting the Past

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads