WASHINGTON – Jewish voters in the crucial swing state of Ohio are nearly evenly split over US President Barack Obama’s handing of Iran’s nuclear program, the only issue on which they come down almost equally divided in a new American Jewish Committee survey.

The telephone poll of 238 registered Jewish voters in the last half of September, found that 46 percent approved of how Obama has dealt with Iran while 40% disapproved – 8% somewhat disapproving and 32% strongly disapproving. The survey has a +/-6.4% margin of error.

On every other issue surveyed – including national security, the economy and health care – more than half of Ohio Jewish voters approved of Obama’s policies.

The only other subject that came close to the numbers on Iran was that of US-Israel relations, where 54% approved and 36% disapproved.

The poll is the third recent survey of Jewish voters conducted by the AJC in the past month, with the others devoted to the swing state of Florida and the national population.

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Ohio Jews are to the right of the groups in the other two surveys, with 28% identifying as conservative as opposed to 20% of Florida Jews and 18.7% of American Jews generally. Other questions in the survey also demonstrated Ohio Jews’ more rightward posture.

Still, in the Ohio survey, Obama fared as well as he did in the national survey, winning almost precisely the same amount of the vote – 64%. Republican candidate Mitt Romney did receive slightly more support, at 29%, to the amount he received nationally (24%). In Florida the Obama/Romney split was 69-25.

Those numbers are significantly better for Obama than among the average Ohio population, where recent polls put his support in the low 50s, compared to Romney in the mid-40s.

But the Jewish backing is still significantly less than the approximately 74% of the vote Obama garnered in 2008, which could be a meaningful margin in a place like Ohio where the result could be razor-thin.

The two candidates were to face off in their first debate on Wednesday night, which was billed as focusing primarily on domestic policy before the recent anti- American violence in Libya, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East broke out.

Those events raised the possibility of some reference to foreign affairs, though international issues are slated to get more attention in the remaining two debates later in October.

Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, told a foreign press briefing on Tuesday that the debates could shake up the race.

“They can be a big deal,” he said. “What people tend to remember is goofs by candidates.

But a candidate who needs to pick up a few points, if he were to dominate the debate, it might help him.” Brown noted that 90% of voters say they’re planning to watch the exchange, and while he was skeptical that all of them would tune in, he estimated it would still be an audience of some 50 million people.

“It’s clearly Romney’s best opportunity in the remaining time,” Brown said, alluding to the fact that Romney is now behind in the race according to polls.

“Whether it changes things or not, we’ll see. But it is an opportunity.”

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