A poll conducted by the liberal Workmen’s Circle and published last week should reassure liberals that their views still predominate in the Jewish community, but it provided little comfort to those hoping President Obama can come anywhere near his 2008 share of the Jewish vote.
The poll showed American Jews are far more liberal than most Americans. They are willing to pay higher taxes, don’t seem to like financial institutions, love unions and favor abortion and gay marriage in numbers that far outstrip the rest of the country.
The respondents also give President Obama a big majority at a time when national polls are calling the presidential election a dead heat.
But despite the effort of the poll’s left-wing sponsor to treat this as a victory for the incumbent, it actually confirms the fact that the president is bleeding Jewish support this year and appears to be falling far short of the share of the community’s vote that he won in 2008.
With the poll showing him getting only 59 percent of the Jewish vote as opposed to the 78 percent he received four years ago, there is no disguising a drastic decline in support for the Democrat.
The Workmen’s Circle attempts to soften the blow by saying if undecided voters broke down the same way decided voters did, it would give Obama a 68 to 32 percent lead among Jews. But that’s an absurd assertion. History shows us there is no reason to believe that is the way undecided voters actually vote.
If anything, in a close race undecideds are more likely to break toward the challenger.
But even if that wildly optimistic supposition were to be borne out, it would still represent a ten percent drop in the Jewish vote for Obama – a result that would have to be treated as a blow to the Democrats and a minor success for Republicans.
If, however, the final results turn out to be closer to the 59 percent figure, Obama would receive the lowest percentage of the Jewish vote in a presidential election of any Democrat since Jimmy Carter.
The pollsters insist, not without some reasons, that Israel does not appear to be a determining factor in the presidential vote. It bears repeating that the vast majority of Jews are not single issue voters on Israel and, like most Americans, will cast their votes based on other issues – principally, the economy.
The pollster’s analysis points out:
Significantly, neither attachment to Israel nor confidence in Israelis vs. Palestinians as peace seeking strongly factor into Jews’ presidential vote decision. This was among the findings of the survey regarding American Jewish attitudes toward Israel.
Obama voters and Romney voters do differ on Israel; Romney voters are more attached to Israel and more confident in Israel’s commitment to peace. However, these differences are totally explained by prior factors like religiosity and political ideology, than are the primary determinants of Obama vs. Romney preferences.
These are fair points but if, as the poll shows, the decline in Obama’s share of the Jewish vote is greater than the losses he is encountering in other sectors in national polls, analysts need to ponder what it is about the president that is repelling a higher proportion of Jewish supporters to abandon his ship than elsewhere. That is a question the Workmen’s Circle prefers not to ask, let alone answer.
Because if, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports in its article on the poll, this otherwise heavily liberal population is still steadfast in its support for Israel as well as sympathetic to its current government, it is not unreasonable to suppose that those sentiments have led them to be, at the very least, a bit less favorable to a president who spent his first three years in office picking fights with Israel.
Like the rest of the country, more Jews are disillusioned with the president’s handling of the economy, but is that enough to explain a potential loss of almost a quarter of the votes he received four years ago?
Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this originally appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.