Seamless integration or parallel politics? The political participation of Jews in Britain

  • Andrew Barclay

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the political behaviour and attitudes of British Jews. It principally does so in three respects, (i) voting behaviour and attitudes towards parties, (ii) ideological positions and attitudes beyond parties, and (iii) democratic engagement. Chapter 2 analyses contemporary partisan attachments amongst Jewish voters, and shows that in contrast to other ethnic and religious minorities in Britain as well as Jewish voters elsewhere in the Diaspora, British Jews overwhelmingly support a party of the centre-right. I also test explanations for this, demonstrating that socio-economic characteristics, and sociotropic perceptions of discrimination are poor explanations of the partisanship of Jewish voters. The mechanism which is understood to align minorities to Labour does not therefore align Jews to the Conservatives. Instead, aggregate level election data and poor perceptions of the post-2015 Labour party offer a more convincing reason for the high levels of support for the Conservatives. Chapter 3 tests this notion by exploring the development of partisanship over time. I find evidence of substantial volatility in party support compared to the wider electorate, and also evidence of a substantial transfer of support from Labour to the Conservatives following 2015. This volatility is in stark contrast to other religious voters who have consistently shown to form durable partisan attachments. Taking this into consideration, the chapter also tests additional mechanisms which underpin party support. Here, Jewish voters who attach greater importance to Israel, or who feel more insecure as Jews within Britain are significantly more likely to vote for the Conservatives. I argue that this presents evidence of the existence of a group utility heuristic of voting which draws Jewish voters to the Conservatives as the champion of their interests, most notably their group-security. Chapter 4 considers the extent to which being Jewish is associated with specific ideological positions which are not directly relevant to party politics. In doing so it presents the following findings. Firstly on the standard economic and social dimensions of political attitudes, Jews are less redistributive and, despite evidence to the contrary for American Jews, no different to the wider population as regards their social liberalism. However, further analysis identifies specific issues where Jews are significantly more liberal than non-Jews, namely immigration and equality for minorities and women. Finally, Chapter 4 demonstrates that British Jews have much higher levels of political trust and also are more attached to Britain and perceived British values. Cumulatively, this chapter shows that despite leaning remarkably strongly to the right in their voting behaviour, the ideological attitudes of Jews in most instances do not conform to those of a typical Conservative voter. The final chapter addresses whether Jews are more politically engaged than non-Jews. I find evidence suggesting that Jews are more satisfied with democratic norms, engaged in the day-to-day of British politics and hold higher levels of political efficacy. However, I only find mixed evidence of higher levels of psychological engagement to be a consequence of Jews holding higher levels of social capital, which initially appeared to be the most plausible explanation for increased democratic engagement. Moreover, despite being more politically interested, satisfied with democracy and having more politically active social networks, I find little evidence for higher levels of material participation amongst Jewish voters.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRobert Ford (Supervisor) & Maria Sobolewska (Supervisor)

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