New AJC Survey: No Big Swings in American Jewish Public Opinion

I haven’t had a chance to fully digest the American Jewish Committee’s 2010 survey of American Jewish public opinion, released today without any warning to unsuspecting Jewish newspaper editors. We’ve posted a JTA story on the release here.

But one number jumped out at me. When asked about President Barack Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, 55 percent approved, 37 percent disapproved.

There’s something in these numbers to satisfy Obama supporters and detractors alike.

Actually, those saying they approved went up one statistically insignificant point; there was a five point increase in those registering disapproval. The magnitude of that increase was surprisingly small,  given the media drumbeat about a new “crisis” in U.S.-Israel relations.

What that suggests is pretty obvious: committed Jewish Democrats aren’t all that upset about the chill in U.S.-Israel relations, but Jewish swing voters – a relatively small portion of the Jewish vote, but still significant – are a bit more worried and probably more likely to factor that anxiety into decisions in the voting booth.

There was also a significant drop in those who see U.S.-Israel relations as positive, from 81 percent last year to 73 percent in 2010, reflecting months of negative headlines.

There was also a slight increase in the proportion of Jews who say Israel should not “compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,” from 58 percent in 2009 to 61 percent this year.

The AJC is touting some of the numbers on Iran.

Despite the overwhelming focus of pro-Israel groups on imposing tougher sanctions, 68 percent of U.S. Jews believe there is either “little” or “no” chance that sanctions and diplomacy will succeed in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Fifty three percent say they would support U.S. military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons – down a tad from last year’s numbers, with a corresponding increase in those opposed.

The AJC also pointed to numbers showing that younger American Jews feel a “greater closeness toward Israel when compared to their elders,” which flies in the face of a conventional wisdom that suggests greater apathy among the young.

Once again, the news was mostly bad for Jewish Republicans; only 15 percent of the Jews surveyed say they identify as Republicans, down a statistically insignificant 1 point since last year, suggesting the GOP isn’t benefiting much from deteriorating U.S.-Israel relations under the Obama administration. There was a 2 point increase in the number who see themselves as independent.

Based on a quick read, I’m seeing numbers that suggest remarkable stability in Jewish public opinion, despite a succession of crises that some analysts predicted – and some activists hoped – would produce dramatic changes.

More on the AJC survey later, but don’t take my word for it; here’s a link to the full poll results.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.