by Jonathan Singer, Thu May 08, 2008 at 09:37:38 AM EDT
According to new polling from Gallup, American Jewish voters, who have tended to overwhelmingly support Democrats in elections going back at least about a century, are no more likely to defect from the Democratic ranks should Barack Obama be the party's nominee rather than Hillary Clinton.
Barack Obama is faring better than might be expected among Jewish voters, beating John McCain in Gallup Poll Daily general-election matchups and trailing Hillary Clinton only slightly in Jewish Democrats' preferences for the Democratic nomination.
In terms of the general election, Jewish voters nationwide are nearly as likely to say they would vote for Obama if he were the Democratic nominee running against the Republican McCain (61%), as to say they would vote for Clinton (66%).
According to Gallup's aggregated tracking data for all of April, 61% of Jewish voters would vote for Obama, much higher than the national average of 45% of all registered voters.
Rather than declining between March and April, support for Obama versus McCain among Jewish voters has increased slightly, from a 23-point margin in favor of Obama (58% to 35%) to a 29-point margin (61% to 32%).
The results are similar for Clinton, who received 66% of the vote from Jewish Democrats in April, compared with 27% for McCain -- a 39-point lead. Clinton led McCain by 29 points in March, 61% to 32%.
Gallup does not provide a margin of error for this aggregation of polling data, but doing the math it looks like the margin of error for this data is about plus or minus 3.5 percentage points -- meaning that the difference between the general election performance among American Jews between Clinton and Obama is statistically insignificant.
Now the fact that Obama beats McCain only by a 61 percent to 32 margin among Jewish voters might be a cause for concern for some. After all, John Kerry defeated George W. Bush by a 78 percent to 22 percent margin (.pdf) within this demographic in the two-party vote. However, it's well worth noting that polling 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 you actually delve into the numbers, it becomes clear that these numbers actually bode fairly well for Obama's chances among Jewish voters in November. What's more, these numbers seriously undercut the notion that Obama has a serious problem among American Jews resulting from false smear emails or whatever else.