Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

Via Ben Smith comes new polling showing Barack Obama leading Jon McCain among Jewish voters -- though now performing as well within the group as John Kerry or Al Gore. But does that mean Obama is really destined to earn significantly fewer Jewish votes in 2008 than his most recent predecessors? First, the numbers:

The survey, commissioned by the Washington-based advocacy organization J Street, found that only 58 percent of American Jews said they would definitely vote for Obama, an Illinois senator. Another 4 percent said they were leaning toward the presumptive Democratic nominee.

In contrast, Al Gore and Bill Clinton both drew approximately 80 percent of the Jewish vote in their respective runs for the presidency, while John Kerry garnered about 76 percent in 2004.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they would vote for U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), with 3 percent saying they were leaning toward the presumptive GOP nominee. That would represent a higher showing among Jews than the 24 percent President Bush drew in 2004.

First, the poll quotes incorrect numbers for George W. Bush's support among the Jewish community in 2004 -- Kerry actually beat Bush by a 78 percent to 22 percent margin (.pdf) in the two-party Jewish vote, and thus received less than 22 percent of the vote overall.

Second, the survey asked the heads up question towards the end of the poll -- and, even more problematically, just six questions after asking voters whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view towards the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. That's not the way to get accurate data.

And the numbers overall don't sound terribly on the mark. Despite the fact that Jewish voters backed Democratic House candidates by at least a 76 percent to 22 percent margin in 2004 and an 87 percent to 12 percent margin in 2006, the survey has the Democrats leading by just a 69 percent to 27 percent margin among Jewish voters in the generic congressional ballot question. Outside of some or any explanation of this, I'm just not buying it. These numbers don't really pass the smell test.

But beyond that, it's worth noting a few things about where Jewish voters were at a similar point in the 2004 cycle. Here are some numbers I noted in a post a couple months back: "[P]olling at the outset of the Democratic race in late 2003/early 2004 showed Kerry, as well as most of the other Democratic contenders at the time, beating Bush among American Jews by only about 60 percent to 30 percent margin. Even Joe Lieberman only carried the Jewish vote in a hypothetical head-to-head match up at the time by a 71 percent to 24 percent margin. And as late in the game as September 2004, polling indicated that Kerry only led Bush in this subgroup by a 69 percent to 24 percent margin even though he ended wup winning by about a net dozen points more."

So when folks trumpet polling like this to argue that Obama is uniquely weak among the Jewish community, perhaps they would be well served to look at the fuller picture -- that polling has shown similar trends in the past only to be proven wrong come election day when Jewish voters come home to the Democratic Party.

Tags: Jewish Voters, White House 2008 (all tags)



Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

On cultural reasons alone I think Jewish voters would have more of an affinity for Barack Obama than they would for either Kerry or Gore.  Obama is one of us.  He's brainy.  He's the sort of guy you would want over for dinner.  Even my apolitical grandmother likes him - there's just something appealing about him to her.

Keep the Hamas/Farrakhan/Secret Muslim smears away and he'll at least equal Gore and Kerry's support.

by Jess81 2008-07-16 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: My Jewish uncle

haha that's awesome.

by Jess81 2008-07-16 03:16PM | 0 recs
200 was a big year

Joe Libermann was the first Jewish American to run at the top of a presidential ticket and Gore/Liebermann received the highest percentage of Jewish voters ever. So you cannot compare that year to any other. In 2004, Kerry also showed "weakness" until election day. But then the MSM was even trying to say he was "weak" among African Americans.

by RandyMI 2008-07-16 03:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

There's a typo in your first sentence -- "now" instead of "not" (which, in any case, seems to reflect your opinion as expressed later in the diary).

by markjay 2008-07-16 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

Jews represent what % of the electorate?  

by Endymion 2008-07-16 04:02PM | 0 recs

About 3%.

They represent about 6% in Florida, which is the only state where the "Jewish vote" really comes into play. Jews are about 2% of the population but 3% of the electorate because of high voting.

I'm a Jew and I know nobody in my family willing to vote for McCain. We just had a family reunion and even the more conservative members of the family support Obama.

My grandmother in Boynton Beach, FL, voted for Clinton in the primary as did most of her neighbors. But she estimates that "all except one idiot" - as she puts it - are voting for Obama. The "idiot" is a Republican anyway, but lives in the heavily Democratic community.

by elrod 2008-07-16 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: 3%

Thanks.  I understand that small demographics are bellwethers for the population as a whole, but I was curious if there was more to it than that.

by Endymion 2008-07-16 07:08PM | 0 recs
Props for "going to J Street!"

They're a pretty cool organization. And, IMHO, as some are beginning to realize, they more accurately reflect the American Jewish population's philosophical sentiments when it comes to social matters than AIPAC, too!

This whole thing about Jews not being behind Obama is a crock. Your analysis is dead on! Kudos for this timely post.

by bobswern 2008-07-16 04:03PM | 0 recs
Count my Jewish family in

All of us.  Pro-Obama to the person.  Most were pro-Obama in the primaries, though my father and grandmother loved Hillary Clinton.

And I'd argue that younger Jews are more motivated than ever by Obama.  

by maconblue 2008-07-16 04:15PM | 0 recs
my Jewish cousins in Florida

are uneasy about Obama but will vote for him in the end.

They would be reassured if he picked a running mate with a lot of experience, like Biden.

by desmoinesdem 2008-07-16 04:58PM | 0 recs
How about the SWING STATE Jews?

like the pivotal jews in Florida? or in Ohio? THOSE are the ones who are gonna decide the election. Not the liberals in New York and California.

by Lakrosse 2008-07-16 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: How about the SWING STATE Jews?

Ohio?  Jews?  Really?  Florida, yeah they make up a pretty decent chunk of the electorate.  Not in Ohio though.  

by Whash 2008-07-16 07:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

I am new to this blog.  I think people here are pretty level headed, so I would like to join with you.  My comments on Obama and the Jewish vote.  My informal survey.

1. My (black hat) orthodox Jewish relatives have become solid Republican over the years, and they are voting solid for McCain.

2. The Jewish community in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park is very progressive, and is voting (and working) solid for Obama.

3. Older Jews who live by the lakefront (and who I take classes with) are really split.  This includes lifelong Democrats.  Some are Obama, some McCain, some undecided.

4. My relatives on Hutchinson Island in Florida are mostly Democrats but are undecided.  My Democratic relatives in New Jersey are leaning to Obama.

I think it all still has to settle.  

by oakparker1 2008-07-16 05:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

I am voting for Obama because he's the worst thing for our country.  My fellow Jews are voting for him to support the pretense that they are tolerant people.

See Obama and the Jewish Vote

by bernieg1 2008-07-16 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

Are you pretending to be ironic? Or are you just a jackass?

by elrod 2008-07-16 06:31PM | 0 recs
(Comment Deleted)

This comment has been deleted by an administrator.

by joker 2008-07-16 08:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

We'll probably slowly lose percentage in the Jewish vote. I don't remember the exact percentages but I've seen reports that younger Jewish voters are 2 or 3 times as likely to align with the Republican Party, as the Jewish voters over age 65.  

by Gary Kilbride 2008-07-16 10:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

This is some really good analysis Singer, especially with the historical context of the head-to-head numbers. For more on how the poll shows that McCain is out of step with the Jewish community check out my piece on the Huffington Post: "Poll Shows: McCain Out of Step with Jewish Community Values" - k/poll-shows-mccain-out-of_b_113179.html

by akeyak 2008-07-17 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Are Jews Really Down on Obama?

"while John Kerry garnered about 76 percent in 2004."

"First, the poll quotes incorrect numbers for George W. Bush's support among the Jewish community in 2004 --Kerry actually beat Bush by a 78 percent to 22 percent margin (.pdf) in the two-party Jewish vote"

There are more than two parties--the reference you cite in its later crosstabs implicitly picks them up, showing Kerry% + Bush% of 97-99%--so it is not clear that your reference and the quoted number disagree.

by phillies 2008-07-17 06:19AM | 0 recs


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