On the eve of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel, a new Gallup poll reveals that Jewish American voters continue to support his rival, U.S. President Barack Obama, by a wide 68%-25% margin.

According to the poll, released on Friday, Americans have a generally positive view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with 35% viewing him favorably, compared to 23% who view him negatively. 41% of Americans say they have no opinion of Netanyahu one way or another.

The new results closely match the overall American opinion that Americans had of Netanyahu at the end of 1999, Gallup said, with one crucial difference: Republicans now have a higher opinion of the Israeli prime minister than they did then, and Democrats have a lower opinion.

According to the new poll, Republicans favor Netanyahu by a wide margin of 50% positive against only 16% who view him negatively, but among Democrats, only 25% view him positively while 31% view him negatively. Among independent voters, Netanyahu’s ratings are 32% positive and 23% negative.

The large disparity between the two American parties is ascribed in the Gallup communiqué to the frosty relations between Obama and Netanyahu, but they also reflect the concern voiced by many American Jewish leaders that by trying to use Israel as a “wedge issue” in the American elections, Republicans are contributing to a distancing of Democrats from support for Israel, in general, and its current government, in particular.

In any case, the poll shows that until now, the Republican campaign against Obama’s attitude toward Israel has achieved only modest results and Romney has his work cut out for him if he is seeking to change the equation in Israel. With 68% of the vote and 7% undecided, Obama seems to be on track to coming close to his 2008 levels of support among Jewish voters, which was estimated to be about 75%.

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