WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish approval of President Obama is dropping, a new national survey has found.
Some 51 percent of American Jews approve of the job Obama is doing, compared to the 44 percent who disapprove, according to a just-completed American Jewish Committee survey. The numbers represent a drop from the 57 percent approval rating Obama got from Jews the last time the AJC did a survey, in March, and a sharp decline from the 79 percent approval rating Obama had among Jews in a May 2009 poll. Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the presidential election two years ago.
The survey also showed 49 percent approving of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, and 45 percent disapproving. The AJC’s March survey registered a 55 percent approval rating for Obama on that issue, with 37 percent disapproving.
The differences between the two polls taken six months apart show both waning Jewish support for Obama and a narrowing of the gap between Jews and non-Jews regarding their opinion of Obama. Until now, Jewish approval of Obama has usually exceeded that of the general population by more than 10 points; this latest poll puts Obama’s Jewish approval rating at just 6 points higher than the national average of 45 percent.
The poll also showed a spike in Jewish support for Republicans in Congress — from percentages in the low 20s in previous elections to 33 percent in this poll.
The margin of error for the poll is 3 percent. For the survey, Synovate, formerly Market Facts, interviewed 800 self-identified Jews selected from a consumer mail panel between Sept. 6 and Oct. 10.
Regarding the issue of Obama’s handling of the economy, Jewish approval has declined since the March survey. In the current poll, 45 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove of Obama’s actions. In March, the numbers were 55 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving.
David Harris, executive director of the AJC, said the downward trend of Jews’ opinion of Obama is a reflection of "Where are we?" anxieties.
"To me, the common denominator pretty much across the board is a sense of growing anxiety and apprehension," Harris said, noting the decline in Obama’s approval ratings on the economy and foreign policy since the March poll. "There’s a sense that things here and abroad are not necessarily getting better."
By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval has risen: 62 percent of the respondents approve and 27 percent disapprove of his handling of U.S.-Israel ties, compared to 57 percent approving and 30 percent disapproving in March.
Harris said the most surprising result of the poll is that a majority of Jewish voters back Arizona’s new immigration law, which encourages police to check the immigration credentials of persons being questioned on other matters. The law already has sparked an exodus of undocumented workers from the state.
The survey asked its Jewish respondents: “A new law in Arizona gives police the power to ask people they’ve stopped to verify their residency status. Supporters say this will help crack down on illegal immigration. Opponents say it could violate civil rights and lead to racial profiling. On balance, do you support or oppose this law?”
The result was a slim majority in favor of the law: 52 percent to 46 percent.
"That one elicited the most surprise here," Harris said. "You form a notion in your mind of what you think the likely response is to each question and then you check it against the reality. We did not expect to see majority support for the Arizona law."
The poll also showed that American Jewish confidence in Obama’s approach to Iran has fallen, with 43 percent approving of the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 percent disapprove, up from 42 percent. In a related question, about 59 percent of respondents support and 35 percent oppose the idea of the United States taking military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. And about 70 percent support and 26 percent oppose the idea of Israel taking such military action.
A series of questions regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process yielded results similar to those of previous surveys, showing continuity in American Jewish views regarding a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.
Matching the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor and 45 percent oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.
A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent said Israel should compromise on the city’s status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Regarding the dismantling of West Bank settlements as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, 6 percent said that all such settlements should be dismantled, while 56 percent called for some and 37 percent called for none to be dismantled.
American Jews remain nearly unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement. In March and in 2009, the figure was 94 percent.