I have already noted the reason why many Jewish voters are already particularly skeptical about John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Over at The Politico, Ben Smith has much, much more. First, the lede:
Barack Obama has struggled for 18 months to lock down the support of a traditionally Democratic group, Jewish voters.
In the past week, John McCain may have helped Obama with his Jewish problem by choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Here's one of the more remarkable facts borne out in Smith's reporting:
An illustration of that gap came just two weeks ago, when Palin's church, the Wasilla Bible Church, gave its pulpit over to a figure viewed with deep hostility by many Jewish organizations: David Brickner, the founder of Jews for Jesus.
Palin's pastor, Larry Kroon, introduced Brickner on Aug. 17, according to a transcript of the sermon on the church's website.
"He's a leader of Jews for Jesus, a ministry that is out on the leading edge in a pressing, demanding area of witnessing and evangelism," Kroon said.
Palin was in church that day, Kroon said, though he cautioned against attributing Brickner's views to her.
To put it lightly, the actions of Jews for Jesus -- trying to use deceptive measures to convert members of the Jewish faith to Evangelical Christianity -- are not well received within the Jewish community in America. The fact, then, that Palin -- who has little to no record on issues regarding Israel, has never visited the country, and at the least appeared at a rally for Pat Buchanan sporting one of his pins (and perhaps was even supporter of his as well) -- attended an address by the founder of Jews for Jesus just two weeks ago is not likely to endear her well to the Jewish community or particularly help John McCain's efforts to attract Jewish votes this fall.
This year John McCain is reprising the Republican Party's quadrennial effort of trying to woo Jewish voters, a group that overwhelmingly supports the Democratic Party and which is currently backing Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 margin (though I'd suspect that estimation is a little low). But if the GOP were truly serious about this outreach, would they really have put someone who appears to be a disciple of Pat Buchanan -- Sarah Palin -- on their ticket for November.
The Nation's Chris Hayes scored a big scoop this morning, unearthing a report from 1999 of Palin's support of then-Independent Presidential candidate Buchanan. And per Ben Smith, Buchanan said today on MSNBC that Palin was "brigader [for his campaign] back in 1996." Take a look:
As Smith notes, Buchanan's statements and actions over the years have earned him his own page on the Anti-Defamation League's website, highlighting statements ranging from "Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory" from 1990 and "If you want to know ethnicity and power in the United States Senate, 13 members of the Senate are Jewish folks who are from 2 percent of the population. That is where real power is at..." from just last year.
And yet from multiple sources, both contemporaneous and more recent from those intimately involved, Palin appears to have been a long-time supporter of Buchanan. This is the way McCain and the Republicans expect to court Jewish voters (as well as the roughly 90 to 95 percent of Americans who are to the left of Buchanan)?
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.
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.
This is a little old, but I'm just seeing it now. According to Gallup polling (via the Jewish Review of Portland, Oregon), Democrats of the Jewish faith are fairly evenly divided on their pick for the party's presidential nominee. Take a look at these numbers released March 24:
Jewish Democratic voters show a slight preference for Hillary Clinton (48%) over Barack Obama (43%) for the party's 2008 presidential nomination. The five-point Clinton advantage is within the margin of error for this sample of Jewish Democrats.
The data are based on interviews with 348 Jewish Democratic voters conducted in Gallup Poll Daily tracking in March. So far this month, all Democratic voters regardless of religious affiliation are equally divided (46% each) in their nomination preferences between Clinton and Obama.
Obama's ability to win votes in the U.S. Jewish community has been questioned, given suggestions that he does not support Israel as strongly as other candidates. Some of Obama's supporters (including the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Obama's church) and foreign policy advisers are regarded as anti-Israel. Obama has met with Jewish leaders to reassure them of his commitment to Israel.
There have been some implicit arguments that Obama would not do well among American Jews, a key constituency within the Democratic base (the roughly 2 percent of the electorate voted for Democratic over Republican House candidates in 2006 by a 87 percent to 12 percent margin, for instance). However, this Gallup polling makes clear that Americans of the Jewish faith within the Democratic Party are about as evenly divided as Democrats as a whole, with the difference between the two candidates falling within the poll's margin of error.
What does this all augur for the rest of the Democratic race? Only one remaining state, Pennsylvania, has a Jewish population that is somewhat sizable in relation to the overall population. In 2006, for instance, Jews were estimated to make up about 5 percent of Pennsylvanians going to the polls on election day, 78 percent of whom backed Bob Casey Jr. and 85 percent of whom backed Ed Rendell. I can't seem to find exit polling on the 2002 gubernatorial primary in the state (which happened to be between Rendell and Casey), the last seriously contested top-of-the-ballot Democratic primary in the state, in order to figure out just what percentage of the Democratic primary electorate tends to be of the Jewish faith, though I'd suppose that it wouldn't tell us a whole lot about the upcoming presidential primary in the Keystone state given that so many more voters will likely turn out this month than have turned out in the past. Regardless, it seems unlikely that Pennsylvania Jews will significantly tip the scales towards Clinton over Obama on April 22.
Regardless, the takeaway from these numbers seems to be this: There is little evidence to support the notion that Jewish American voters are unwilling to support Obama, and in fact it appears that Jewish Americans who are Democrats are divided by about the same margin as their party as a whole when it comes to choosing between Obama and Clinton.