Politics

Obama Strong Among Jewish Voters

Even stronger against Romney than he was against McCain in American Jewish Committee’s new survey. Some methodological questions muddy comparison.

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Obama at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2008.

President Barack Obama has regained strength among Jewish voters, a closely watched, typically Democratic, bloc, according to an annual survey released this morning.

Obama would defeat Mitt Romney among Jews by a margin fo 61% to 28% according to the survey of more than 1,000 American Jews conducted by the American Jewish Committee.

A spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, Kenneth Bandler, cautioned however that the AJC had retained a new polling company and cautioned against a direct comparison to past surveys.

Obama, who has faced criticism from community leaders over his handling of Israel and has struggled to raise money from some top Jewish donors, won 78% of Jewish voters in 2008 exit polls. But White House officials became worried that he would be unable to repeat that performance, and his numbers dipped steeply in last year’s annual AJC survey, which showed him beating Romney by a margin of just 50% to 32%.

Those numbers may actually understate Obama’s electoral strength with Jews. The survey which the AJC says it tries to keep as consistent as possible from year to year, but which is not a simple random poll, showed Obama leaning John McCain in September of 2008 by 57% to 30%, a somewhat narrower margin than he now leads Romney. In November, exit polls showed him winning 78% of the Jewish vote, part of a strong showing across demographic groups.

The new AJC survey also shows Obama’s approval rating among American Jews, which stood at 57% in 2010 and dipped to 45% in 2011, recovering to 57%.

The results reflect, in part, an underlying reality that Jewish voters remain — for a variety of reasons including historic ties and demographics — a core Democratic group. Fewer than 20% of the survey’s respondents identified themselves as Republicans, while 52% identified themselves as Democrats.

The survey also found the typical division inside the community, with more observant Jews more likely to be politically conservative.

The survey did suggest the Republican hard line on Israel has the attention of some Jewish voters: Romney performed substantially better among Jews who cited national security and U.S.-Israel relations as top issues, winning 44% and 45% of those groups respectively.

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