Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Poll Reveals Whether Being Pro-Israel Matters To American Jewish Voters

Last year, I wrote a post about the results of a poll by the American Jewish Committee that included an insight about how American Jews feel about Israel. On the issue of the importance of Israel, the respondents answered just the way you would expect:

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 when the issue went from theory to hard reality, something happened to all that love:
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 Iraq16
Economy and jobs23
Terrorism and national security14
Health care19

Support for Israel6
Education 4
Energy crisis6
Not sure5
The implication of that poll seemed clear, that support for Israel was not high on the list of priorities of American Jews--but now a new and different kind of poll seems to indicate something very different:

Support for Israel is a critical element of Jews’ voting behavior. An experiment we embedded in a survey for the National Jewish Democratic Council provides the most telling evidence. For half of the sample we pitted a Republican candidate "Jones" who had a "strong pro-Israel record" and a variety of typical Republican issue positions against a Democratic opponent "Smith," who also had a “strong pro-Israel record” along with typical Democratic positions on the same issues. The other half of the sample was given identical portraits of “Jones” and "Smith" except that, for the second group, the Democrat lacked the pro-Israel record.

Comparing the vote in the two halves of the sample reveals the substantial difference support for Israel makes to Jewish voters.

The pro-Israel Democrat won by a 45-point margin, while the Democrat who was identical, except on Israel, eked out only a three-point win. Support for Israel alone created a massive 42-point swing in the margin, clear evidence of the centrality of Israel to Jewish voters.
Still unclear is just how one defines being pro-Israel these days, but the poll does give some indications:
Ninety-four percent of Jews believe the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state; two-thirds would endorse Israeli military action to prevent Iran from going nuclear; nearly six in 10 oppose a compromise that left Jerusalem divided or outside Israeli sovereignty. While 60 percent would dismantle at least some Israeli settlements in exchange for peace, only 8 percent would dismantle them all. As J Street’s poll makes clear, 75 percent supported Israel’s military action in Gaza, while almost the entire community supports an active role for the U.S. in pursuing peace.
The fact that 76% of those polled think that Obama is pro-Israel indicates that the question of how to define someone as pro-Israel remains problematic, although this may be more an indication of the continuing infatuation with Obama than with anything of substance.

Another point is made in the comments to the article. Even when a pro-Israel Republican is pitted against a Democrat who is not pro-Israel--the Republican loses, indicating perhaps that the implication of the earlier poll still holds true, namely that other issues still rival Israel in the hearts of American Jews.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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