Poll Shows a Replay of 1980 – American Jewish Electorate Divided on Presidential Election

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Recent polls suggest that it’s déjà vu all over again for American Jewry, with the divisions among Jewish voters bearing a striking resemblance to those that preceded the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 (OB”M).

As the general election has just kicked off, with the economy getting the main focus and attention, and President Barrack Obama taking some hits on his record, it is also important to see how American voters view President Obama’s conduct and his handling of issues that matter to most Americans. 
Let’s look specifically at a demographic that may play a vital role in determining who becomes the next President of the U.S. this November – the Jewish American voter. Since this race is going to likely come down to a battle over swing states, those that historically and demographically choose the President, the Jewish population in Florida, Ohio, Philadelphia and Cleveland could be the demographic giving Mitt Romney the edge over the President.
A new poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks for the AJC, shows the mixed political mind of the American Jewish community as the nation heads into general election season. It reveals Romney making significant inroads in the Jewish community, getting the support of 28 percent, 6 months before Election Day. In comparison, President George W. Bush, considered one of Israel’s greatest friends, got only 24 percent of the Jewish vote in his reelection bid in 2004. Senator McCain, also known as a strong supporter of Israel during his years in the Senate, got only 22 percent.
The poll also shows President Obama getting only 61 percent of the Jewish vote, a decline of 17 points down from the 78 percent he got in 2008. 11 percent are undecided, but when asked whom they are leaning towards, 5% picked Romney and 6% picked the president. Even before the Veep pick, the national convention, and the campaign effort which is expected to be aggressive and carefully targeted in the months ahead, that gives Mitt Romney roughly 33% of the Jewish vote.
Based on this poll data, one could confidentially predict Mitt Romney getting around 39% of the Jewish vote in November. It matches President Reagan’s 1980-1984 support.
The analysis is based on poll data, which could be spun and twisted brilliantly by both campaigns, but also gives us a glimpse of how the electorate is somewhat similar to 1980 when Ronald Reagan challenged President Jimmy Carter. When asked for the most important issues in deciding their vote, 80 percent of American Jews cited the economy, 57 percent health care, 26 percent national security and 22 percent U.S.-Israel relations. But among those who are more focused on national security concerns or U.S.-Israel relations, only 42 percent would vote for Obama. Forty-four percent of those who cite national security and 45 percent of those who cite U.S.-Israel relations would vote for Romney.
Regardless of how the respondents intend to vote, 60 percent think the Democratic Party is more likely to make the right decision in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. 37 percent choose the Republican Party. The same is with national security issues and the economy in which 36% trust the Republicans compared to 60-62 that trust the Democrats.
Speaking to the Jewish Voice, Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition said the while it’s too early to predict the outcome, “The poll data underscores President Obama’s significant problem with American Jewish voters, and a major erosion in support.”
While expressing confidence in Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s ability to make significant inroads among Jewish voters, Brooks pointed out that in 2000, George W. Bush got only 19 percent of the Jewish Vote and narrowly carried Florida. And by the time of his re-election, with an overall 24% of the Jewish vote, the state of Florida wasn’t even close. However, he added, that “the more votes we take from the Democrat’s core base, the more it will impact the overall competitiveness of this race,” Brooks said.  
Nonetheless, if this election is a combination of the economy and national security issues, based on the assumption these factors will be key in determining the support each candidate might get – the President’s track record in regards both unemployment and foreign relations (particularly with Israel), combined with Mitt Romney’s aggressive campaigning, one could definitely expect Romney to pick up a great deal of support among Jewish voters. Consequently, that would create an opening and opportunity for the Republican Party to open its doors, run competitive Jewish candidates, make Jews feel comfortable in the GOP, and most of all, provide just enough oomph to tilt some highly contested battleground states in Mitt Romney’s favor.