Despite widespread public dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama, American Jewish voters did not significantly stray from previous voting patterns in this week’s mid-term elections and favored Democrats over Republicans by a 69%-28% margin, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.
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The phone survey of 800 Jewish voters who actually cast a ballot on Tuesday was commissioned by J Street and carried out by Jim Gerstein of Gerstein, Bocian, Agne Strategies. It found potentially widespread support for a nuclear agreement with Iran and for a more active American role in the peace process. According to the poll, American Jews are somewhat critical of settlements in the territories but overwhelmingly supported Operation Protective Edge in Gaza; their attitude towards Prime Minister Netanyahu is more favorable than to most other American political personalities.
According to the poll, the top two issues that were important to American Jews in deciding their vote on Tuesday were the economy (44%) and health care (31%). Terrorism was named by 17%, ISIS by 13% and Israel by only 8%. Only 10% listed education as one of their two primary concerns.
The poll found that American Jews have a much better opinion of Obama’s handling of his job than the general public: his approval rating among Jews is 57%, compared to about 42% among Americans in general. But American Jews share the popular disdain for Congress, with only 18% approving of the way it’s doing its job.
The poll shows that while Republicans invariably predict a seismic shift in Jewish voting patterns, it usually fails to materialize: the voting percentages of Jews in Tuesday’s ballot closely resemble those of the 2012 presidential election. As of today, the poll shows that the situation would remain the same if Hillary Clinton was the Democratic candidate for president in 2016: Clinton would beat former Florida governor Jeb Bush 69%-24% and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul 71%-22%.
These numbers are also reflective of the basic self-definition of the respondents: 59% said that they think of themselves as Democrats (41% strong, 18% weak) with another 9% saying that they were independents who “lean” Democratic. Only 15% of the Jews defined themselves as Republican, and another 6% as Republican-leaning independents. 19% said they hold conservative views, 36% moderate, 36% liberal and 9% progressive.
Perhaps the most surprising finding of the poll is the support for a nuclear agreement with Iran that would restrict uranium enrichment to civilian purposes only and place inspectors at Iran’s nuclear facilities in exchange for a reduction of sanctions: 84% of American Jews said they would support such a deal, strongly or somewhat.
In findings that were likely to please J Street itself, the poll found that 85% of American Jews would support an “active” American role in trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. 73% would support U.S. pressure of both sides to the conflict (the poll speaks of “Arabs”, not “Palestinians”) but only 47% would approve of pressure on Israel “to make the compromises necessary to achieve peace.”
80% of respondents said they support a two-state solution. Presented with details of a theoretical peace agreement closely resembling the so-called “Clinton Parameters,” 67% said they would support such a plan and only 24% said they would oppose it. 77% said they would support an American presentation of such parameters to both sides of the conflict.
28% of those polled said Israel should suspend all settlement activity in the West Bank, and another 52% said that it should do so only outside “core settlement blocs.” Some 20% said that Israel should continue to build throughout the West Bank. 40% said Netanyahu’s policies have hurt relations with the U.S., 21% say they have helped and another 40% said Netanyahu’s actions have made no difference. 80% said they approve of Israel’s military operation in Gaza during the summer.
The poll asked respondents to rate their feelings of warmth towards various personalities and institutions on a scale of 0-100, and the results, in descending order of their mean score were: Netanyahu (61), Jon Stewart (58), Clinton (57), Democratic Party (51), Barack Obama (49), Malcolm Hoenlein (45), Sheldon Adelson (28), Republican Party (28), John Boehner (25) and the newly elected and soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (24).