To the Editor:
As a non-Jew interested in the behavior of major American groups, I have been struck by the interchange between Melvin Tumin and various colleagues, originating in Judaism and carried by Milton Himmelfarb into the pages of COMMENTARY [“How We Are,” Jan.].
Some of Tumin's generalizations about his fellow Jews seem curious coming from a supposedly systematic, empirically oriented social scientist. They fly in the face of overwhelming survey evidence, going back as far as the first Gallup surveys in the mid-30's. If Tumin had chosen even at random any national survey of the last thirty years by Gallup, Roper, the Survey Research Center, the National Opinion Research Center, or the like, he would have discovered. . . Jewish, as compared with non-Jewish, replies significantly more liberal, tolerant of ideas and cultures different from one's own, internationalist, etc.
For example, such tabulations of Jews' and of non-Jews' replies in national surveys would have told Mr. Tumin, inter alia, that less than 10 per cent of Jews who voted last November cast their ballots for Goldwater, compared with almost 40 per cent of non-Jews and an even higher percentage of non-Jewish whites; and that large majorities have voted for the more liberal of the two major Presidential candidates in every election since the first surveys on the subject in late 1936. Jews have been approximately two-fifths as likely as other whites to feel that the Kennedy and Johnson administrations were going “too far” toward pushing equal rights for Negroes, to oppose FEPC, fair housing laws, and passage of the Civil Rights Act (just prior to its passage), and to feel that the federal government should stay out of the issue of desegregation in this country. Depending on how the query was posed and the particular type of immigration suggested, Jews have been 40 per cent or more inclined than non-Jews to favor liberalization of immigration. Similarly, Jews have been more apt than non-Jews to favor the arguments of trade unions against those of management, to have basically favorable images of trade unions, to approve of proposed federal participation in medical care of the aged and the underprivileged, expansion of social security benefits, and increased federal aid to education. In 1954, when more Americans had fundamentally favorable impressions of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin than had unfavorable ones of him, only one Jew out of six regarded him favorably. . . . Likewise, surveys about permitting Communists to publish and speak in the mass media, allowing socialists or atheists to teach in schools, and other aspects of civil liberties have found Jews invariably more tolerant than any other major ethnic or religious group. . . .
Admittedly, Jews have been concentrated more than other Americans among the better educated, the more prosperous, the urban, and the professional, managerial, and proprietary occupational groups, those where support of multilateral international commitments and collaboration, and of civil rights and liberties have been most prevalent. When these factors have been controlled, that is when Jews have been compared with only those non-Jews who are of similar status, differences in the direction of more liberal attitudes among Jews than non-Jews on social welfare—and most other issues of domestic economic policy involving transfers of wealth from haves to have-nots—have usually widened over those evident when Jews have been compared with other Americans in general. Differences in attitudes toward civil rights and civil liberties, immigration, and international relations have narrowed, but they have still remained statistically significant at a high level of confidence. Even in the South, where Jews have on the whole been more conservative on most of these matters than in the North, a recent study directed by the undersigned (to be published this spring) discovered that Jews were significantly more liberal, favorable to equalitarian race relations, and favorable to international cooperation . . . than were Gentiles of similar income and occupation in a dozen Southern sample communities. . . .
I would agree with Mr. Tumin that many Jews express opinions and manifest actions which are more conservative than most of the readers of this periodical would prefer. Admittedly their actions tend often to be less liberal than their expressed opinions to survey interviewers would lead one to expect. But pragmatic liberals interested in finding allies in efforts to achieve a more democratic domestic society and a more compassionate and internationally cooperative foreign policy know from wide experience that such fellow spirits are more likely to be of Jewish than any other ethnic or religious origin.
Alfred O. Hero, Jr.
[More correspondence on Mr. Himmelfarb's piece will appear in our next issue.]