As the U.S. presidential election hurtles into summer with Americans evenly torn between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, American Jews are projected to support the president by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent according to a poll released Thursday.
That number falls below the 78 percent of the Jewish vote Obama cinched in 2008 and also indicates a rise in support for the Republicans. In 2008 John McCain won 22 percent of the Jewish vote.
“The American electorate today is to the right of where it voted in 2008 but holding down the left of that electorate are the Jews,” said Steven M. Cohen, a prominent sociologist of American Jewry and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University who oversaw the poll commissioned by The Workman’s Circle, a progressive Jewish organization.
The numbers emerged from the poll which surveyed 1,000 American Jews and found 59 percent in favor of Obama, 27 percent supporting Romney, and 14 percent undecided.
Cohen said the assumption is that undecided voters will break along the same proportions as the decided voters and lead to a projected 68 to 32 percent margin.
“If you look at numbers, even if you don’t break the undecideds towards Romney, he is knocking on the door of 30 percent of the Jewish vote,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. "And the point is: how are Jews going to vote? The newsflash is not that Jews are liberal, the question is why is Obama on route to getting the worst numbers from the Jewish vote in decades?”
David A. Harris, reads the numbers differently. He noted that Obama had a similar percentage of Jewish voters backing him at around the same stage of the 2008 campaign only to win 78 percent of their support on election day.
And putting the new numbers in context with other recent polls with similar findings of overwhelming Jewish support for Obama, he said, “It puts into starker relief the continued strong support of the American Jewish community in a tough economic time when he is facing such a close election.”
“That is what makes this community unique. It’s how reliably Democrat it is, election cycle after election cycle,” Harris said. Since World War II American Jews have largely voted as Democrats. But in recent years there have been an indication of a drift towards more conservative economic positions and Republican candidates.
The poll, which has a four percent margin of error, also found high support among Jews not just for social causes they have long championed including gay marriage (68 percent support) and access to legal abortion (63 percent favor) , but on economic issues such as taxation. Sixty-five percent said they support raising income tax for those who earn above $200,000 a year and 62 percent said they thought the power of financial institutions pose a threat to the United States.
The survey also found that 73 percent of those polled favored the government requiring private health insurance to cover birth control. The survey found that Orthodox Jews and those who attend synagogue regularly are the groups within the Jewish community most likely to vote for Romney, as were the married and union members. Those supporting Obama tended to be those with the highest levels of education, women, younger adults, members of the LGBT community and infrequent synagogue goers.
The survey also found that Israel related issues seem to have little effect on Jewish voters’ decision in choosing between Obama and Romney.
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