BOSTON – Jewish support for US President Barack Obama slipped in the 2012 presidential race but still far surpassed that earned by Republican Mitt Romney, according to exit polls.
On Tuesday, 69 percent of Jews cast their ballot for the Democratic candidate as compared to 78% in 2008. Some 30% went for Republican Mitt Romney, up from 22% for the party’s candidate in the last presidential race.
The exit polls are conducted by a national consortium and generally include samples of 400-500 Jewish voters in their national survey.
Both parties took comfort in the outcome and used it to bolster their argument about the political orientation of the Jewish community.
“In no way, shape or form was this a narrow victory,” said Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein about the 2012 Jewish vote, which he said was closer to the 2008 results than reflected in the exit polls. A group of academics and pollsters affiliated with the National Jewish Democratic Council later adjusted the Jewish vote figure, which is notoriously hard to track given the small sample size gathered in surveys, from four years ago down to 74% after compiling more data.
Gerstein said that that means the drop in the Jewish vote - of about 5% - is consistent with the drop in support for Obama overall among other key constituencies such as Catholics and white voters. Nationally, Obama’s popular support dropped from 53% of the vote to 50%.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, however, argued that this year’s exit poll had to be considered in relation to the 2008 original exit poll number in order to get an accurate comparison.
“If the Democrats want to lower their expectations to make their candidate look better, that’s up to them,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks.
He maintained that the 8-point increase for the Republican candidate represented “unambiguous inroads into the Jewish community” by the GOP, particularly given what a large percentage jump it represented.
The RJC launched an unprecedented $6.5 million campaign for Jewish votes, targeting swing states with phone calls, mailings, surrogate events and ads.
“I thought we got a good return on the investment we made,” he said.
Gerstein, who on Tuesday did an election night survey of Jewish voters for J Street that found results similar to the exit polls, disputed the efficacy of the RJC efforts, suggesting their efforts to peel away voters over topics like Israel and Iran was misplaced.
According to his survey Tuesday, only 10% of Jews identified Israel as one of their two main voting issues, and just 2% chose Iran.
The RJC, however, in its own Tuesday survey found that 77% of Jews surveyed said Israel was an important issue to them compared to only 22% who didn’t.
US Ambassador Michael Oren didn’t have to conduct a survey during the election to conclude that the issue of Israel was important to voters, noting the number of times it came up on the campaign trail and in the presidential debates.
“The candidates competed with each other over who was more pro-Israel,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Oren dismissed the suggestion being made by some in the Israeli and US media that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to interfere in the US election on behalf of Romney and would pay a price in his relationship with the White House.
“We do not interfere with internal politics,” Oren stressed.