Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Adar I 5763 - February 27, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Analysis of Election Results Shows Declines Only Among Non- Chareidi Voters
by N. Ze'evi

United Torah Jewry can certainly be pleased with its ability to retain its position while slightly increasing its overall number of votes. On the other hand, the party was not particularly successful in repeating its performance of the summer of 5759.

In the 5756 (1996) elections, UTJ received a total of 98,657 votes and then jumped 28 percent to 125,741 votes in 5759 (1999). In the recent elections UTJ received 135,087 votes-- an increase of only 7.5 percent. Yet in the final analysis UTJ retained its five mandates, thanks primarily to the low voter turnout among the general electorate which lowered the number of votes per mandate even below that of the previous elections.

Yet the party's improved achievements, both in terms of increased votes and relative growth, fell far short of its achievements in the previous elections in 5759. Many observers were surprised to find the 7.5 percent increase did not even reflect natural growth rates in the chareidi public, estimated to be between 18 percent and 20 percent in total during the almost four years. How could this be? Considering the enthusiastic participation in chareidi areas, where did all our votes disappear to?


United Torah Jewry has two main constituencies: hard-core chareidi supporters who identify completely with the party and its platform and who bring in the lion's share of UTJ votes, and other supporters from various locations around the country. The latter sector is comprised of traditional and non-chareidi religious voters, the vast majority of whom are Sephardic Jews.

This sector is not considered natural UTJ supporters who can be relied on to give the party their votes every time. Their support can only be won through concerted efforts and persuasion. This has been the case in every election campaign, and particularly this one which was noted for extreme apathy among voters.

Both Jerusalem and Bnei Brak showed impressive increases, in some respects even more significant than in the previous elections when these two leading UTJ cities brought an average growth of 9.5 percent. This time Bnei Brak brought an increase of 12.5 percent (3,528 additional votes) and Jerusalem brought an increase of 9 percent (3,165 additional votes). Meanwhile other chareidi population centers including Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit, Telz Stone, Rechasim and Elad showed a total increase of 19 percent, compared to a 13 percent increase from 5756 to 5759. So why were the overall results this time lower than in the previous elections?

To answer this question we must examine the figures in other locations. Secular towns and cities that include chareidi populations did not reveal uniform voting patterns. Fifteen selected locations that fall under this category brought a dramatic increase of 27 percent in the 5759 elections, double the relative increase posted in entirely and predominantly chareidi towns and cities. These impressive results followed intensive campaigning among traditional Jews in those areas.

In the recent elections, the growth in these areas came to a more modest 18 percent. A careful examination of these figures shows the leading three cities in this category-- Ashdod (which has the third-largest chareidi population in the country), Petach Tikva and Beit Shemesh--showed a 50 percent increase, whereas in general the other cities in this category showed slight declines. The gap is primarily due to increased migration to these three cities combined with drastic drops among general and traditional voters.

Yet the big story of the 5759 elections as well as the recent elections took place in towns and cities around the country with relatively small numbers of chareidi voters. In 5759 significant increases were apparent in almost every outlaying town, except for a few places (e.g. Kiryat Gat, Akko) where the number of votes dropped. From 5756 to 5759 the increase in some non-chareidi areas was less than 10 percent (e.g. Eilat, Ramat Gan), while in other similar areas the increase was 20 percent to 30 percent (Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Raanana, the Haifa area, Nesher). In other places the increase was 50 percent and more (Gan Yavneh, Or Yehuda, Azor, Gedera, Kfar Saba, Nahariya, Carmiel, Afula, Migdal HaEmek) and some towns even posted 100 percent increases (Cholon, Bat Yam, Ramle, Lod, Rishon Letzion, Pardes Chanah, Kiryat Shemoneh, Maaleh Adumim). In Kiryat Malachi and Natzerat Illit the number of UTJ supporters increased by 200 percent, and in Dimona, Yehud, Maalot and Givat Ze'ev by 300 percent-400 percent!

All this took place in the previous elections. UTJ's total votes in these cities jumped from 12,435 to 18,537--an average increase of 50 percent. And this time?

This time around the party posted a decrease of nearly 50 percent in these locations. Essentially the dramatic achievements of 5759 were erased from the charts, bringing the party back to 5756 voter figures in these places.

The above findings lead to an obvious conclusion: While in 5759 the primary increase in votes was in non-chareidi areas, in the recent elections the increase in chareidi areas was offset by the sharp decrease in other areas. Had we managed to at least retain the results achieved in 5759 in these areas, in addition to the votes achieved this time in chareidi areas, the party would have garnered over 6,000 additional votes, which would have won us a sixth mandate (probably by taking away Shas' 11th mandate).

These lost votes are not acquired automatically like the chareidi vote, but require concerted efforts in the election bureaus and by campaign field workers. Print and broadcast ads do not win over these voters, who needed to be pushed and prodded right up to Election Day, as activists who garnered these votes in previously elections attest. Apparently financial constraints and the thrifty policy followed in the recent election campaign did not allow for the type of door- to-door campaigning that has proven itself at the polls, which is a real shame.

In retrospect, based on the election results, had more money been invested in fieldwork the expense would have justified itself and been paid off through the funding provided each term for every additional mandate.


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