Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Poll About Israel And The Jewish Vote: Some Surprises

Looks like Good News / Bad News.
An article in the Jerusalem Post reports that Israel does not have an image problem in the US, based on a phone poll conducted by The Israel Project:
"Support for Israel has significantly increased" said Laszlo Mizrahi, noting a figure of 60% who declared themselves to be Israel supporters, 27% strong Israel supporters, 31% Palestinian supporters and only 8% neither or undecided.
The odd thing is that US support for Israel was not necessarily dependent on viewing Israel as 'moderate':
Iran was generally regarded as the most extreme, with 84% of respondents categorizing it as extreme, and Hamas was seen as extreme by 72%. Hizbullah was seen as extreme by 64% while 68% thought the Palestinian Authority was an extremist organization.

On the other hand, 40% of respondents said that Israel is extreme, and, even when compared to the others listed above, only 54% said Israel was the most moderate, followed by the Palestinian Authority, 21%, Iran 12% and Hamas and Hizbullah 10% each.
If accurate, it may indicate that there is some value after all in Hasbarah and sticking to presenting the facts--and not relying on pictures of half-naked Israeli women in popular men's magazines.

Another point revealed in the survey is how "the Jewish vote" looks--apparently it is not defined by concern for Israel:

Project founder and president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi told a news conference in Jerusalem on Monday that even in the Jewish community, the majority of likely voters do not give priority to Israel.

"Three quarters of the American Jewish community say that there are other issues more important than Israel," she said, saying only 23 percent of the Jewish population listed Israel as a top issue. The poll had a 3.5% margin of error.

While 51% of the respondents acknowledged that the economy and jobs were their major concern, only 7% cited the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the threat of Iran.

The "Black vote" or the "Women's Vote" is actually tied to their respective interests--and requires candidates to actively address those interests. Very different is the Jewish vote, which is not so much a Jewish vote as it is the vote of Jews, many of whom are liberal and whose vote reflects liberal as opposed to actual "Jewish" interests--such as Israel.

These results dovetail nicely with The American Jewish Committee's 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, which was divided into 5 sections:

A. International Affairs
B. Israel
C. National Affairs
D. Anti-Semitism
E. Jewish Identity

On issues of Jewish Identity, the respondents answered just the way you would expect:
34. How important would you say being Jewish is in your own life?
Very important 61
Fairly important 29
Not very important

37. How close do you feel to Israel?
Very close30
Fairly close 40
Fairly distant 21
Very distant 8
Not sure 1

38. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.”
Agree 69
Not Sure3

But there is nothing in the questions to indicate what it means to "be Jewish," "feel close to Israel" or "care about Israel." As a result, you get the unexpected and jarring results to the next question
19. In deciding who you would like to see elected president next year, which issue will be most important to you? Please select one of the following:
War in Iraq 16
Economy and jobs23
Terrorism and national security14
Health care19
Support for Israel6
Education 4
Energy crisis6
Not sure5

It appears that the Democratic Party gives itself far too much credit when it so handily corners the "Jewish vote"--it has very little to do really with what positions the Democratic candidates take on Israel; it is the other issues, the liberal issues that attracts the majority of Jews to the Democratic platform.

For all intents and purposes there may not be a Jewish vote per se at all

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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