The Jewish vote is no longer a Democratic Party certainty, according to a survey released today by the American Jewish Committee.
While American Jews are more liberal than most Americans, the survey of 959 Jews nationwide indicates that they are less liberal than American Jews of the past.
"What we are seeing is a continued more liberal voting pattern among Jews than most other Americans but a less liberal, less Democratic one than in former years," said Milton Himmelfarb, research director of the American Jewish Committee.
On the presidential level, Himmelfarb said, network exit polls indicated that Jews this year returned to a strong preference for the Democratic candidate, voting for Walter F. Mondale over President Reagan by about 2 to 1, about 67 percent for Mondale. In 1980, Jimmy Carter received about 44 percent of the Jewish vote to 39 percent for Reagan. In 1976, Carter received 68 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Gerald R. Ford.
The AJC survey, the fourth conducted since 1981 by sociology professor Dr. Steven M. Cohen of Queens College, found that Jews consider themselves "self-defined liberals" by 3 to 2.
According to the survey, Jewish Democrats outnumber Jewish Republicans by more than 4 to 1. However, the number of Jewish Democrats is shrinking as more Jews -- now 31 percent -- become independents, Cohen noted.
Many political observers expected a shift to the right among Jewish voters because of increasing personal affluence and friction between Jews and blacks over the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's association with Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, said Hyman Bookbinder, the AJC's representative in Washington.
But the emergence of conservative fundamentalist influence during and after the Republican National Convention in Dallas provoked "great concern" within the Jewish community, Bookbinder noted.
He said Jews voted in favor of Mondale in every state except Texas, where they favored Reagan by 64 to 36 percent. In California, Jews favored Mondale by 76 to 24 percent; in Florida, 59 to 41 percent; in New York, 70 to 30 percent; in Illinois, 69 to 31 percent; in Massachusetts, 76 to 24 percent; in Pennsylvania, 83 to 17 percent, and in New Jersey, 62 to 34 percent.
Overall, he said, Reagan won 30 to 35 percent of the Jewish vote.
"This proves that the Jewish community is not monolithic," he said. "Many Jews feel politically homeless. There is still potential Jewish support for either of the parties."
An earlier survey, conducted by the American Jewish Congress, similarly concluded that the Jewish community votes disproportionately liberal, though less so than 20 to 30 years ago, and that economic issues play far less of a role among Jews than among other sectors of society. The survey, based on 1,500 responses, showed a 70 to 30 percent split in favor of Mondale.