Spinning polls on Obama’s Jewish support (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MITCHELL BARD 04/10/12)
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Anyone who believes the hype over the recent survey by the Public
Religion Research Institute suggesting that Jews don’t consider
Israel an important factor in their vote hasn’t spoken to any Jews in
the last three years. And anyone who buys the spin from the survey
that American Jews are showing strong support for Obama is simply
ignorant of electoral history.
Putting aside what looks to be a liberal bias in the response group
(44 percent identified as liberal or very liberal) and questions
(which focused on religious and social issues rather than security
and peace issues), the fact that Jews, like most Americans, would say
the economy is the most important issue in this election is
unremarkable. The more interesting question would be how many of
these Jews are assimilated, disinterested in politics, have little
knowledge or interest in Israel, because answers to these questions
would probably also put the results in a proper perspective.
Two hints that this sample is unrepresentative and includes those
less likely to consider Israel important are the finding that 60% of
those polled don’t belong to synagogues and 64% never visited Israel.
If you ask people who attend synagogues, who have traveled to Israel,
are members of AIPAC and other Jewish organization or are seniors, I
suspect you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not think
Israel is a very important issue. More important than the economy?
Maybe not, but the relevant question is whether it is important
enough that they will vote against someone they believe will harm
The lack of concern the pollsters found for Israel is reflected in
the apparent disinterest of the pollsters, who asked only seven out
of 43 questions about Israel and only one that directly related to
security. Still, on these questions, the results were far more
hawkish than one would expect from the liberal views found on social
issues. For example, 83% said Iran is a major problem, second only to
the concern expressed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which
asked no follow-ups as to the reasons for its perpetuation, such as
terrorism, incitement and the Palestinian refusal to enter
negotiations). Furthermore, 59% said the US should take military
action against Iran if sanctions fail. Only 53% supported a
Palestinian state, 42% opposed.
Speaking around the country and reading what Jews are writing about
in the mainstream and social media, it is quite evident the election
is very much on their minds and the questions people ask are not
about Obamacare or the deficit, it’s about aid to Israel, Iran and
whether Obama can be trusted to protect Israel.
Does anyone believe that Obama and his rivals would go to the AIPAC
conference and spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about
Israel if they did not believe it was an issue that shaped Jews’
votes? They read polls every day and if they believed Jews didn’t
care about Israel, you can be sure that Obama would have spent his
time defending his record on the economy at AIPAC rather than his
policy toward Israel.
It was also no revelation to hear the poll found that 62% of Jews
would vote for Obama. This is an improvement from the 54% in the
Gallup Poll in September 2011, which may reflect that Jews feel
better about his new approach to Israel, they believe the economy is
improving or they’re simply disenchanted with their other choices.
Nevertheless, 62% is potentially disastrous for Obama in a close
election. Remember, he got 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008; 16 points
is a precipitous decline.
Even the most delusional Republican does not expect any of their
candidates to win a majority of the Jewish vote. But in a close
election it could make a difference if the Republican gets more than
30% as Reagan and Bush Sr. did in their victories. Remember also that
Bush’s Jewish vote dropped to 11% because of his anti-Israel policies
and was trounced by Clinton in 1992.
The survey spinners also failed to consider historical perspective.
Obama’s current support is the lowest percentage for any Democrat
since Jimmy Carter. The average Jewish vote for a Democrat is 71%, so
his support is significantly below average. In fact, the last two
Democrats to receive less than 70% of the Jewish vote – Dukakis and
Mondale – both lost.
The writer is a foreign policy analyst. His latest books are The Arab
Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in
the Middle East and Israel Matters: Understand the Past – Look to the
Future. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/10/12)
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