When it comes to the Jewish vote, candidates of every party focus on one issue: Israel. As they see it, Jewish voters care about Israel more than they do such bread-and-butter issues as the economy, health care, energy, environment, and social security.
According to the annual American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish public opinion, however, the candidates are of the mark. Year after year, the AJC surveys consistently show that Jewish voters put those very issues ahead of Israel, which this year came in fifth in importance.
The AJC’s findings are not unlike recent Gallup polls, which show that, while President Barack Obama has lost a chunk of support among Jewish voters (in 2008, he received 78 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain), that loss is consistent with his drop in support among the general public. In other words, proportionately speaking, there is little difference between how Jewish voters view the president and how non-Jewish voters view him.
Their reasons for losing faith in Obama also appear to be the same, according to both the AJC survey, released in September, and Gallup’s polling.
According to the AJC, for example, 60 percent of Jewish voters disapprove of how Obama has handled the economy; 49 percent are unhappy with his performance in immigration issues; foreign policy disaffection is at 48 percent; and 43 percent give him low marks for his energy policies. Overall, only 45 percent of Jewish voters approve of the president’s performance in office, while 48 percent disapprove, with seven percent not sure how they feel.
Despite the disapproval ratings, however, Jewish voters – when the AJC survey was released – nevertheless said they preferred Obama in 2012 over any of his GOP challengers.
This, too, is seen by some as proof that Israel is not the make-or-break issue for Jewish voters.
Republicans do not buy this assessment, however. They also believe that Israel will play a central role in how Jewish voters vote and that GOP candidates will gain Jewish support as the battle for the nomination narrows over the coming months.
As Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told Ron Kampeas of JTA in July, “President Obama’s actions have ensured that a wide swath of the Jewish vote is