Though early voting in Israel has reportedly gone in Donald Trump's favor, support for the Republican Party has taken a serious, almost unprecedented hit, early exit poll data presented on Thursday suggested.
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According to so-called exit polls conducted by iVote Israel – a right-leaning group that helps American expats vote in Israel – Trump won 49 percent of the Israeli-American vote, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton claimed 44 percent, ahead of Election Day on November 8.
In the 2012 presidential matchup between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the GOP carried 85 percent of expats in Israel, while Obama got only 14 percent – indicating a drop of over 35 percent in support for Republicans in the Jewish state. In 2008, Obama won 24 percent and Republican John McCain got 76 percent.
iVote Israel claims that out of around 30,000 voters in Israel, some 15,000 voted through its platform. The exit poll, which had a 3 point margin of error, was conducted among 1,140 voters, with an equal number of men and women. The majority have lived in Israel for more than 15 years and slightly more than half lived in the Jerusalem area and in West Bank settlements.
Trump is far more popular among religious voters. Of voters who identify as ultra-Orthodox, 85 percent voted from Trump, compared with 11 percent for Clinton. Among those who identify as religious, 63 percent went for Trump while 27 percent voted for Clinton. On the other hand, among those who identify as secular, 75 percent voted for Clinton and only 22 percent for Trump.
Half of all voters described themselves as Orthodox, 8 percent as ultra-Orthodox, 16 percent as traditional, 18 percent as secular and 2 percent at not-Jewish, with the rest preferring not to answer.
The female vote was markedly different from the male one, with 52 percent of female voters in Israel voting for Clinton and 33 percent for Trump. Among men, 59 percent chose Trump and 33 percent Clinton.
The most popular reason given for choosing a candidate among both Clinton and Trump voters was “danger of electing other candidate.” Interestingly, 25 percent of those who voted for Trump said they were registered Democrats, while only 10 percent of registered Republicans voted for Clinton.
Trump's biggest lead was in New Jersey, with 62 percent of Israelis registered in that state voting for him, compared to only 28 voting for Clinton. In Massachusetts however, 63 percent of voters went for Clinton compared to 26 for Trump. Among voters from New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Maryland, Trump was the winner. Among voters from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and Michigan, Clinton was the winner.
Younger voters in Israel showed a clear preference for Clinton, while older voters clearly gravitated toward Trump. Among 25-34 year olds, 60 percent voted for Clinton, compared with 28 percent for Trump, whereas among 65+ voters, 60 percent voted for Trump and only 33 percent chose Clinton.
iVote Israel under fire
Headed by Eitan Charnoff, iVote Israel was established in 2012 ahead of the Obama-Romney presidential race. With a distinct right-leaning message, the American nonprofit was founded by political activists with ties to the Republican Party. As a nonprofit, it's not required to reveal its donors.
The organization has come under fire of late, with both Democrats and Republicans saying their ballot requests have gone missing. One voter says he isn't ruling out that the group deliberately misplaced the registration forms from Democrat-friendly places like Tel Aviv.
Some Republicans are equally suspicious, saying the organization could somehow be connected to a plot to suppress votes of American Israelis on the assumption that they'd favor Donald Trump.
Reacting to criticism, Charnoff said, “iVote Israel does everything it can to make the voting process easier and is actively looking into the issue of ballots not arriving through our own channels."
A U.S. embassy official told Haaretz that “all ballots received at the embassy, the U.S. consular agency in Haifa, and the U.S. consulate general in Jerusalem have been properly forwarded to election officials as addressed on those ballots."