Obama approval underwater among Jewish voters?

After Democrats lost a special election in a solidly Democratic Congressional district this month, the party suddenly began to worry about Barack Obama’s standing with Jewish voters.  According to the American Jewish Committee, which has surveyed Jewish voters for twenty-one years, Democrats have at least some reason to worry, and not just because Obama confused Jews with janitors in his CBC speech.  Barack Obama’s overall job approval rating has sunk underwater at 45/48, and has fallen to 37/60 on the economy.  Obama’s approval rating is also narrowly underwater with Jewish voters on immigration (43/49) and foreign policy (47/49), although a majority approves of his energy policy (50/43) and overwhelmingly approve of Obama’s performance on national security (68/28).

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Does this translate into support for Republican candidates?  Not exactly; Obama still beats Republican candidates handily in head-to-head matchups:

  • Obama/Romney – 50/32
  • Obama/Perry – 55/25
  • Obama/Bachmann – 59/19
  • Obama/Christie – 53/26

The damage is a little more subtle if one doesn’t understand the track record of the Jewish vote in presidential elections.  In 2008, Obama got 78% of the Jewish vote, far above any of the above matchups.  Since undecideds usually lean to the challenger in a race with an incumbent, this suggests that while Obama will win the Jewish vote again, it won’t be by the traditionally wide margin that Democrats usually enjoy.  That may present further problems for Democrats in down-ticket races, especially if enthusiasm drops off enough to keep some of the voters from bothering to cast a ballot at all.  In NY-09, Jewish voters showed up at the polls, however — and cast their votes for the Republican.

Will the enthusiasm of Jewish voters be dampened?  If US-Israeli relations is a big issue for them, it at least looks that way.  Obama’s handling of the relationship gets only a 40/53 approval rating from Jewish voters, while they support Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of it 54/32.  They also narrowly disapprove of Obama’s handling of Iran, 43/45, and 71% see little or no chance of the current diplomatic efforts and sanctions preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.  A surprisingly strong majority of 56/38 want the US to take military action against Iran to prevent it from developing or acquiring nukes, and more than two-thirds (68/26) would support Israeli military action as well.

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The Jewish vote comprised all of 2% of the popular vote in 2008, so even a significant slide in this demo won’t necessarily provide a losing margin in any one state for Obama.  It does indicate that fundraising in this unusually loyal Democratic demographic will be tougher, though, and Republicans might have some opportunities to make inroads in the next cycle.

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David Strom 5:30 PM | June 18, 2024
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