A year later, as the Yom Kippur War raged, Nixon went against the State and Defense Department bureaucracies and directed the massive military airlift that saved Israel from impending catastrophe. Had two-thirds of American Jewish voters gotten their way, the man sitting in the Oval Office during Israel’s time of unprecedented peril would have been President George McGovern.
Posts Tagged ‘Jewish voters’
These selected quotes merely scratch the surface. Set aside some time to read the entire symposium – a few of the 31 respondents actually attempt a defense of Obama, and their comments may well be the most enlightening if only because they illustrate the weakness of the pro-Obama side of the debate.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Turns out there are real questions about the accuracy of a Quinnipiac poll showing President Obama’s approval rating has fallen to just 52 percent among Jewish voters. As the JTA’s Eric Fingerhut pointed out in a front-page story in last week’s Jewish Press, the Jewish sampling “was derived from a sample of just 71 respondents, for a margin of error of plus or minus 11.6 percent – a sample size that pollsters generally say makes such surveys unreliable.”
As the Monitor argued earlier this week on Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog, Obama enjoys two important advantages that make him almost a shoo-in to win another landslide among Jewish voters three years from now: He’s a well-spoken, non-threatening black man (a factor not to be underestimated when considering the voting psychology of liberal and moderate Jews), and he’s adamantly opposed to and by the Christian Right.
To put that into historical context, let’s look back at the presidential election of 1984. For a Republican, Ronald Reagan had done exceedingly well among Jews in 1980, winning 39 percent of their votes and holding the incumbent president, Jimmy Carter, to an unimpressive plurality of 45 percent. (Third-party candidate John Anderson got the rest.) And then came the 1984 National Survey of American Jews, conducted between April and August that year, which found that while 39 percent of respondents acknowledged voting for Reagan in 1980, some 53 percent said that, looking back, Reagan was the candidate they would have preferred.
Reagan seemed poised to at least hold on to his 1980 share of the Jewish vote – and quite possibly exceed it.
In addition to Reagan’s performance in office, there was, in 1984, the Jesse Jackson factor. The longtime civil rights activist was running for the Democratic nomination, and during the course of the campaign many of his past derogatory comments about Jews and Israel resurfaced, fueled both by his reference, in what he thought was an off-the-record conversation, to New York City as “Hymietown” and his reluctance to separate himself from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The Jackson factor was widely thought to threaten the Democratic Party’s decades-old hold on Jewish loyalties, particularly when a Los Angeles Times poll of African American delegates at the 1984 Democratic National Convention revealed that 75 percent of the delegates pledged to Jackson and almost 50 percent of those backing eventual nominee Walter Mondale felt no need to distance themselves from Farrakhan or his statements.
Come November, however, Reagan actually ended up losing significant ground among Jewish voters. “Exit polls taken the day of the election,” wrote Charles Silberman in his 1985 book A Certain People, “indicated that no more than 35 percent of American Jews, and perhaps as few as 31 percent, had voted for Reagan; the Jewish vote for Mondale was put at 65-69 percent … analysis of the polls indicated that between 25 and 35 percent of the Jews who had voted for Reagan in 1980 switched to Mondale in 1984.”
Reagan’s increasingly vocal embrace of the New – specifically, the Christian – Right scared Jews more than anything said by either Jackson or Farrakhan. Nearly 80 percent of Jews had an unfavorable opinion of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the most visible face of the Christian Right (never mind that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had presented Falwell with the Jabotinsky Prize in recognition of his strong support of the Jewish state.) In fact, Silberman noted, “more Jewish voters indicated an unfavorable opinion of Falwell than of Jesse Jackson.”
How does this relate to Obama and Jewish support? For one thing, the Republican Party’s identification with the Christian Right is immeasurably stronger today than it was 25 years ago, making it unlikely that liberal or moderate Jews will find a comfort level with the GOP anytime soon. For another, the current generation of American Jews is not nearly as supportive of Israel and Israeli policies as were their parents and grandparents – and support for Israel was the one factor that in the past might have swayed some liberal Jews to vote for a Republican.
If Jimmy Carter, fresh off a disastrous four years in office and displaying a palpable animus toward Israel, could still outpoll his Republican opponent among Jews (and absent the Anderson candidacy Carter probably would have won at least 55 percent of the Jewish vote), there’s no reason to believe even a mediocre Democratic president – particularly if he’s a likeable African American who talks a good liberal game – need worry about Jewish voters.
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com
The polls suggest that after months of hovering around 60 percent, Obama appears to be within striking distance of the 75-80 percent of the Jewish vote won by the three previous Democratic nominees for president.
A Gallup tracking poll of 564 Jewish registered voters, taken over the first three weeks of October, found Obama leading Republican John McCain by a 74-22 percent margin. That was a 13-point increase in support for the Democratic nominee since Gallup’s July poll, which had Obama leading 61-34 percent.
Gallup also released Jewish data from tracking polls in the two previous months showing a steady rise for Obama. The Illinois senator garnered 66 percent in August and 69 percent in September, with McCain at 25 percent for both months. The margin of error for the October survey is plus or minus 5 percent.
Meanwhile, a Qunnipiac University poll taken Oct. 16-21 in Florida found Obama winning 77 percent of Jewish voters in that state to just 20 percent for McCain.
While the Jewish statistic in the latter poll was based on a relatively small sample size of 87, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 10.5 percent, the finding is notable because some leading Jewish Democrats in the state had publicly worried this summer about resistance to Obama among South Florida Jews.
Some Democratic operatives say concerns over Obama’s lack of experience seem to have been overtaken in some Jewish voters’ minds by worries over the inexperience of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, as well as the Alaska governor’s conservative political views on hot-button social issues such as abortion.
An American Jewish Committee survey in early September found that just 34 percent of the Jewish community approved of McCain’s pick for running mate, with 57 percent disapproving.
Jewish feelings appear to match those in the overall electorate toward Palin. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found 55 percent of voters believe Palin is not qualified to serve as president. Her lack of qualifications was seen in the poll as the biggest concern about a McCain presidency.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, rejected the idea that Palin – who has voiced staunch support for Israel and a hard line on Iran – was a factor in the recent swing toward Obama among Jewish voters. “I don’t believe this has anything to do with Sarah Palin whatsoever,” he said. “Nobody I know is voting for vice president.”
Brooks attributed McCain’s decline in the Jewish community to the “volatility” in the electorate during the recent economic crisis. He argued that as Obama gained ground in the country as a whole in recent weeks, he naturally also gained ground among Jews. Saying he expected the race to tighten nationally, Brooks predicted that McCain’s numbers in the Jewish community would bounce back as well.
The Palin pick may have nullified McCain’s greatest strength in the Jewish community, Democratic observers said.
Some suggested that earlier in the campaign, McCain was more appealing to Jews than other Republican presidential candidates because of his strained relations with the religious right over the years and his moderate record on a variety of issues, from embryonic stem-cell research to immigration.
Palin, conversely, is more line with the thinking of religious conservatives and has been embraced by that group.