Anti-Semitism a factor in the Kentucky gubernatorial race? (Probably not.)

A recent article in the Lexington Herald-Leader examines the extent to which religion will play a factor in the upcoming gubernatorial election. Governor Beshear’s running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, is Jewish. Both Governor Beshear and his Republican challenger David Williams claim that religion, especially anti-Semitism, will not be an issue in the campaign.

There’s some political science research to support this general conclusion. A study published in 2004 analyzed the results of a public opinion survey of Florida voters during the 2000 election. (The 2000 Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Joseph Lieberman, was Jewish.) The researchers used something called a “list experiment”, which is a way to get people to admit biased or prejudicial opinions without them actually having to directly say it. The results of the study showed that only a small portion of Florida voters possessed latent anti-Semitic views and consequently it was not a major factor in the 2000 presidential campaign in Florida.

Granted, Florida and Kentucky are two very different states on a number of characteristics, but my hunch (based on this and several other studies of prejudice and racism) is that the number of people who would vote against Governor Beshear solely because his running mate happens to be Jewish is not large enough to significantly alter the outcome of the election.

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