WASHINGTON – A survey released Tuesday finds that 62 percent of Jewish voters
want to see US President Barack Obama reelected, while of those who prefer a
Republican win, 58% back Mitt Romney.
Obama also enjoys significantly
higher favorable ratings than Romney, with 61% viewing him mostly or very
favorably in comparison to just 31% who feel similarly about Romney. In
contrast, only 20% view Obama very unfavorably while 29% view Romney that
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, competed with former
Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the primaries held the nation’s capital and in
Maryland and Wisconsin on Tuesday.
“There’s absolutely no evidence in
this survey of any substantial change in likely patterns of Jewish behavior this
November,” said University of Florida political science professor Kenneth Wald,
who participated in a press conference unveiling the findings of the Public
Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey.
But Republican pollster Neil
Newhouse, who did not participate in the event, said the results provided an
“opportunity” for Republicans.
“It’s clear that American Jews aren’t
wildly enthusiastic about Obama,” he maintained.
He pointed to the
difference between the 62% of Jewish voters supporting Obama today compared to
the 78% that voted for him in 2008, according to exit polls. In addition, even
fewer Jews approve of his job performance (58%) while 34%
Newhouse also noted that when it came to Obama’s approach to
the Arab-Israeli conflict, 28% disagreed with both his policies and his handling
of the issue. Twenty percent said they agreed with both his policies and
handling of the topic, while 15% agreed with the policies but not their
implementation and 36% were unsure.
On Iran, the Jews surveyed were
slightly more hawkish than the general US population, supporting a US military
attack on the country’s nuclear facilities to prevent the development of a
nuclear weapon should sanctions fail by a 59 to 37 margin as opposed to a 50-38
split in the wider electorate.
However, only 2% of Jewish voters listed
Iran as their major voting priority, and only 4% answered Israel.
issues were given by 5% as their second-highest concern.
Fully half of
the respondents gave the economy as their number one concern.
gap between rich and poor and healthcare also rated more highly than any
John Marttila, who often conducts polls for the
Anti- Defamation League and who attended but did not participate in the PRRI
poll briefing, said that the number of Jews listing Israel struck him as
somewhat low. But he added, “It is not surprising to me that American Jews would
say that the economy is the overwhelming issue.”
He also noted that
“Israel could be much more important to the Jewish community if the Iran
Marttila, who identified himself as a Democrat,
said he believed that the rhetoric of the Republican primaries, particularly on
religious issues, was alienating moderate Jews who might otherwise consider
voting for the GOP.
Wald agreed that the Republican rhetoric was hurting
the GOP’s prospects with Jewish voters.
He also said that there could be
some under-reporting among Jews about the primacy of Israel in their voting and
their backing for military action against Iran because they didn’t want to be
seen as furthering Israel’s interests at the expense of the United
He noted that despite listing Israel low as a single-issue voting
priority, it came in high on the survey’s assessment of Jewish
The second-most important quality those polled listed when it
comes to Jewish identity was support for Israel, at 20%. The first, at 46%, was
a commitment to social equality.
The survey was conducted among 1,004
self-identified American Jews aged 18 and older. They were conducted online
between February 23 and March 5, and then weighted to adjust for the
representation of different groups within the Jewish community. While 44% of
those who participated described themselves as “just Jewish,” that proportion
was reduced to 29% in the calculations.
Similarly, the 4% of respondents
who consider themselves Orthodox was doubled to 8% in the survey results.