A Replay of 1980 – American Jewish Electorate Divided on Presidential Election, New Poll Shows

As the general election just kicked off, while the economy is getting the main focus and attention, it is also important to see how American voters view President Obama’s conduct as president and his handling of the issues that matter to most Americans. In particular those who will determine who becomes the next President of the U.S. in November 2012.

One of the determining factors in this election and one that should be looked at very close, is the Jewish American electorate. Since this race is going to 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 ones 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 and somewhat opinionated, but also shows Mitt 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, and 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. That gives Mitt Romney a roughly 33% of the Jewish vote, even before the Veep pick, the national conventions and the campaign effort that is expected to be aggressive and carefully area targeted in the months ahead.

Based on this poll data, one could confidentially assume Mitt Romney getting around 39% of the Jewish vote in November, matching President Reagan’s 1980-1984 support.

The analysis is based on the poll data, that could be spinned 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.

Nonetheless, if this election is a combination of the economy and nation security issues, based on the assumption that these factors will be key in determining the support each candidate might get – the President’s record, his name recognition, his incumbency advantage and Mitt Romney’s aggressive campaigning mode, one could definitely expect Mitt Romney to pick up high support among Jewish voters. And by that, creating an opening and opportunity for the Republican party to open it doors, run competitive Jewish candidates, make Jews feel comfortable in the GOP party, and most of all, just enough to tilt some highly contested swing states in Mitt Romney’s column.

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