WASHINGTON (JTA) — A new poll shows that 92 percent of Jewish Democrats approve of President Obama’s job performance.
The survey, based on calls July 22-24 to 500 self-identified Jewish Democrats, was commissioned by the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative lobbying organization claiming to represent 43,000 churches. It was conducted by Global Marketing Research Services and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Along with the nearly unanimous approval of President Obama’s efforts, the poll found that 58 percent of the respondents said he was “doing a good job of promoting peace in the Middle East” compared to 16 percent who disagreed. Asked whether the president was being “too tough on Israel,” just 18 percent said yes and 55 percent said no.
The survey suggests that despite the Obama administration’s repeated calls for an Israeli settlement freeze, support for the president among American Jews remains high.
But the Traditional Values Coalition and the husband-wife team of political consultants Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have cited several of the survey’s other findings in an effort to argue that the results point to a potential rift between the president and Jewish supporters.
“Support among Jewish Americans is a mile wide, but when specific issues about Israel’s defense are raised it is about halved and looks ‘an inch deep,’ ” the coalition’s founder and chairman, the Rev. Louis Sheldon, said in a statement titled “TVC Poll Finds American Jews Conflicted Over Israel and Obama.”
Sheldon, as well as Morris and McGann in a column for the New York Post, noted that only 20 percent of respondents agreed with what the survey defined as Obama’s view that “if Israel could settle its dispute with the Palestinian refugees and give them a nation of their own, that the Arabs would live in peace with Israel.” Fifty-two percent opted for the view that “the Arabs will never live in peace with Israel and that giving them a nation of their own will just make them stronger.”
Similarly, they pointed to a question in which Obama is described as saying it is “very important that Israel not expand its settlements on the West Bank so as not to alienate the Palestinians” and told that “Israel says it should be allowed to build new homes in existing settlements but not to start new ones.” Respondents again chose the option not associated with Obama, this time by a 52-37 percent margin.
In both cases, Obama supporters say the survey oversimplified the president’s position.
“Based on the phraseology of the questions, they are misrepresenting the position of the Israeli government and the Obama administration,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“Whenever anyone shows me a poll from any interested party, from one side or another, I have questions about the veracity of that poll,” he said.
Sheldon also pointed to the issue of Iran.
Asked whether there is “any real chance that Iran could be stopped from developing a bomb without an Israeli attack,” 38 percent said yes and 25 percent said no, while the rest were unsure. Still, 62 percent said they opposed an Israeli bombing strike against Iran to stop the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons, with only 15 percent in favor.
About 40 percent of respondents said they thought the president “would support Israel if it attacked Iran,” while 45 percent said they weren’t sure.
The question that showed perhaps the most disagreement with Obama also was hypothetical: “If President Obama told Israel not to attack Iran but offered no real assurance that he could stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, would you support or oppose Obama’s decision?”
Just 26 percent backed Obama’s decision in that scenario, while 40 percent opposed it and 34 percent were “not sure.”
In his statement, Sheldon said the poll was done “to better understand attitudes in the American Jewish community as the threat to Israel increases and radical Islam rises throughout the world.”
Also, in an interview with JTA, the organization’s spokesman, Jim Lafferty, said the values council was curious to see whether the Jewish electorate “sides with Mr. Obama or Mr. Netanyahu.”