Jews give President Obama a higher overall job approval than most other voters although they’re still unhappy with his handling of the economy and don’t think he’s doing enough to broker Middle East peace. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to vote for someone else next year, according to a survey of 800 Jews earlier this month for J Street.
Obama’s 60 percent overall approval rating — slightly more say they’ll vote for him again — is consistent with recent Gallup polls, both of which show Jewish support for the President is about 14 points higher than among the population at large. African-Americans are the only ethnic group expressing greater support.
Jews "remain a loyal base constituency," said Jim Gerstein, J Street’s pollster who designed this survey.
The President runs well ahead of two leading GOP contenders, Mitt Romney (63-24) and Michele Bachmann (67-19), according to the poll, which did not include other candidates. He held a similar lead over Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) in mid-2008 but by election day he wound up winning 78-22 among Jewish voters.
Jews identify themselves as 70 percent Democrat, including independents who said they lean in that direction; 20 percent Republican, including independents who lean that way, and 10 percent independent, according to the J Street poll. That is roughly how the presidential vote has broken down in recent years, with independents splitting almost evenly. Those identifying as strong partisans is 34 percent Democrat, 6 percent Republican.
Republicans, who already have begun trying to make Israel a wedge issue in next year’s election by portraying the President as hostile to the Jewish state, will not find comfort in the poll’s finding that Jewish voters disapprove of his handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict by a 56-44 margin.
That’s because a closer look reveals they want the US to try harder for a peace settlement, not take a more hands-off approach.
• 83 percent said they want to see the United States play an active role in helping the Israelis and Palestinians resolve their conflict.
• Seven in 10 would like the United States to put a peace plan on the table.
• Two thirds would be comfortable with an American plan even if it means disagreeing with both sides, but when Israel is singled out that drops to 44 percent.
• By 57-43 American Jews support a two-state agreement based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.
• When asked about their favorable/unfavorable feelings toward American and Israeli leaders, American Jews rated President Obama 56-34 compared to 50-20 for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
J Street, which calls itself the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby, has been vehemently criticized by many Jewish groups on the right as not sufficiently supportive of the current Israeli government or for espousing views they consider not "pro-Israel" enough for their tastes. Under pressure from some of those quarters, J Street has been blocked from participating in a number of community events. The Israeli ambassador, who has spoken before some of the most extreme right wing groups has refused to appear before a J Street audience. When pollsters raised this issue, more than three-to-one of those surveyed said J Street and other Jewish groups which criticize Israeli policy should be allowed to speak at Jewish community events.
Read the poll here and analyze it for yourself.