Political Points — AJC survey says Jewish support for Obama is down


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**An American Jewish Committee poll shows Jewish approval for President Obama at 51-44 — plummeting from the 79 percent he enjoyed in May 2009 and down from the 57 percent he tracked the last time the American Jewish Committee polled in March.

More telling is that the poll shrinks the Jewish-non-Jewish gap in approval to just outside margins of error. Jewish approval of Obama usually leads general population by over 10 points — here, Obama’s 51 percent is just 6 points higher than the national average of 45 percent. (The margin of error for this poll is 3 percent; Synovate, formerly market Facts, interviewed 800 self-identified Jews selected from a consumer mail panel.)

On issues, Jewish approval has worsened on the economy, dropping from 55-42 in March to 45-51 in the current AJC poll. There’s also a  drop in approval of how he hands U.S.-Israel relations — 49-45 now as opposed to 55-37 in March. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s approval on same has risen: 62-27 now as opposed to 57-30 in March.

The other big news is that the AJC poll repeats findings by Pew in August that 33 percent of Jewish voters count themselves as likely to vote GOP in November — a spike, Pew then noted, from the low 20s earlier polls had showed in GOP support among Jews.

The AJC poll was taken from Sept. 6 to Oct. 10, and the drop comes despite the renewal of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks under Obama’s watch — or perhaps, considering the rise in approval for Netanyahu, because of it. Obama was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as snubbing Netanyahu in March; in subsequent visits, the White House went out of its way to embrace the Israeli prime minister. That could contribute to a perception that Obama is hapless, while Netanyahu scored a point.

However you cut it, it looks like making disagreements with Israel public has not served the administration well with Jewish voters. To be fair, the conventional wisdom that it was the White House that initially made public differences over settlements is wrong — differences were pushed by Netanyahu people from even before Bibi took office, when his aides were leaking like a sieve their anxieties over whether Obama would maintain the alleged "natural growth" agreement Israel secured under Bush.

But even if it was Bibi who started it, the Obama administration’s reaction was "go for it" — made explicit in Obama’s famous July 2009 meeting with Jewish leaders, when the president said that the policy of "no daylight" added up to "no progress."

And by the way, there’s  no room, in the AJC poll, for suggesting that hammering Israel earned approval among liberal Jews — support for Netanyahu and his policies would make a nonsene of that argument were anyone to put it forward. "American Jews remain nearly unanimous – 95 percent – in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement," the AJC release notes.

**The other poll making news is the Emergency Committee for Israel poll showing that (PDF), as Bill Kristol, ECI’s co-founder puts it at his Weekly Standard, the pro-Israel lobby is the American public. 

What the survey shows is this: The American people strongly support the state of Israel, and want their elected representatives to do so as well. An astounding 93 percent of those polled say the United States should be concerned about the security of the state of Israel. A majority—54 percent—say the U.S. should be “very concerned” about Israel’s security. Virtually the same number care that their elected representatives be pro-Israel. When asked, “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate whom you perceive as pro-Israel?,” 53 percent say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate they saw as pro-Israel, 24 percent less likely. Even more striking, the same number—53 percent—say they could not vote for a candidate if he were anti-Israel, even if that candidate agreed with them on most other issues.

Shmuel Rosner at JPost Plog Central likes the poll, by McLaughlin and Associates, a lot: 

1. Yes, it is a problem to rely on polls from advocacy groups. But in this case there’s a difference. One can see all the numbers, the cross-tabs, and decide for oneself whether this poll should be trusted or not. Much better than the average poll we get from the average advocacy group. Much much better. This should be the standard practice for all such polls.

2. I’ve spent hours today looking through the numbers. Many interesting nuggets, but one trend that can’t be ignored is the huge gap between Democrats and Republicans on almost all questions related to Israel. Here’s one table, showing the extent to which voters will be more inclined to vote for a candidate they perceive as pro-Israel – or less inclined to do so.

I’m afraid I have a huge problem with the poll: most of the Israel questions were posed to respondents after question 18 which reads as follows:


A, that’s wrong — Obama has publicly criticized and pressured the Palestinians. B, more importantly by framing the question this way, the pollster makes it clear to the respondent what he wants to hear. "Likes Israel, doesn’t like Palestinians" is an invitation to comment on whether an imbalance is fair, and no imbalance is fair.

A pollster wanting an honest assessment of the Obama administration’s "daylight between the U.S. and Israel" approach might have asked: "In March, Israel announced a major building project in East Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joseph Biden. The United States has always opposed such building. Israel has said it will freeze building in the West Bank, but not in Jerusalem, which it has declared as its capital. Senior U.S. officials called the announcement an ‘affront.’ Was that an appropriate way to handle this disagreement?"

As it stands, whatever the respondent hears, she knows the pollster — who, of course, is the authoritative party in a phone call — is pro-Israel and believes Obama is unfair.

McLaughlin, as we’ve pointed out before, has a problematic past in how it assess voting trends when it comes to Jews, Israel and Obama.

It’s a shame, because before question 18, the questions are straightforward, and suggest that a fairer approach would have produced more complex, interesting results. Approval of Obama’s policies on Israel, for instance, show a statistical heat: 43.2 percent approve, 44.3 disapprove. "Strongly disapprove"  registers higher (30.7 percent) than strongly approve (18.2 percent), a hint that the more one knows about the relations the likelier they are to disapprove of Obama’s policies? We’ll never know. Also interesting: Despite the virtual split on approval of Obama’s Israel policies, there’s a gap on whether it helps or hurts Israel: 29.6 percent say Obama improves Israel’s security, 42.7 percent say he is harming it and 27.7 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

**At a debate at Northern Kentucky University last night, GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul ducked a dig by Democratic candidate Jack Conway on Paul’s Iran policy. Rand Paul led off on the national security question and led off saying, essentially, that he would have voted no on the Iraq War, yes on the Afghanistan War, although the Afghanistan War has been mishandled.

Conway responded by saying he would have opposed Obama’s Afghanistan’s surge, although he agreed that Afghanistan was the "right war" and suggested that he too would have opposed the Iraq war. He said Pakistan’s instability posed a danger

I’m not only concerned about declarations of war, I’m concerned about loose nuclear material. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to me that my opponent in Octobe of 2007 that it would not affect our national security if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon. I’m going to o everything I can to make sure Iran doesn’t acquire one.

Paul’s 30-second rebuttal suggested that Conway waffled on the Iraq war — although Conway has never served in national office, and would not have been in 2002 in a position to vote on the Iraq war. (He ran for the House of Representatives that year, so perhaps Paul was referring to Conway’s position in that race.)

But, considering that Conway’s only direct dig at Paul had to do with Iran’s nuclear capacity, it’s significant that Paul chose to dodge it. Paul is Tea Party-backed, but he is also the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), whose 2008 run for the presidency was predicated mostly on his libertarian, anti-war, non-interventionist policies. Considering the degree to which Kristol and other neoconservatives have embraced the Tea Party, it will be interesting to watch their relationship with Paul should he win the seat.

Here’s the video, which I first saw on Huffington Post:

**I’d call this a "Hail Mary," but I don’t think it would be tasteful to associate Rich Iott, the Ohio GOP House candidate who spent weekends in SS garb, with "Hail anything."  

Now that the GOP leadership has dropped him like a hot potato subsequent to the revelations, Iott is calling them… typical politicians?

From Talking Points Memo’s summary of Iott’s appearance on CNN, Iott directly attacks Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in Congress, and the minority whip:

"I think that Representative Cantor did what so many career politicians do," Iott said. "He reacted before he had all the facts. He didn’t know the whole story. He didn’t understand what historical reenacting is all about, or the education side of it. And he just made a decision without all the facts. My opponent here is cut out of the same cloth."

Here’s the vid:

**Iott’s unforced error makes Jon Stewart‘s roundup last night on The Daily Show, citing Ronald Reagan‘s second rule, "Never dress up as a Nazi."

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2010 – Unforced Errors Edition
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Stewart also wonders if GOP nominee for New York governor Carl Paladino realized this weekend that he was "making the case to Orthodox religious folk that gay people will brainwash their children into acting or dressing in an unconventional matter."

In fact, as it turns out, it was not Paladino — at least this time — who made the case that gay teachers "brainwash" children. We now know from the New York Jewish Week that he was reading from notes prepared in part by his host, Rabbi Yehuda Levin. Here’s an entertaining New York Times account of what happened when Carl met Yehuda (could I resist? No.)

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