Does President Obama have a Jewish problem? Despite the best efforts of his Republican challengers to portray the president as too soft on Iran and too hard on Israel, a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests support for Obama among American Jews is as strong as ever. The poll also found that Israel was the primary concern of only 4 percent of American Jews. Unsurprisingly, the most important factor in their vote is the state of the economy.With Florida once again shaping up as a key battleground in November, Republican strategists will likely try to continue to drive a wedge between Obama and one of his strongest constituencies. But as the Washington Post explains, they may be banging their heads against a brick wall:
Kenneth Wald, a political science professor who studies Jewish voting patterns at the University of Florida, said he has heard the political chatter that U.S. Jews are so upset with Obama’s treatment of Israel that they will move away from their traditionally Democratic leanings and vote for a GOP challenger — but the survey doesn’t find evidence for that.“About three out of four American Jews voted Democratic in 2008,” Wald said. “Something relatively similar is likely to occur in 2012.”
Back in November, the New York Times‘s election guru, Nate Silver, warned about the dangers of trying to assign different voting patterns to different demographics: “The sophomoric strategist thinks he can slice the American electorate into a million little pieces and make it more than the sum of its parts. The smart one recognizes our common bonds.”Beyond that, this number should hammer home the point that the strong and persistent support in American public opinion for a pro-Israel foreign policy doesn’t rest on vociferous, knee-jerk support from American Jews. American Jews by and large are closer to President Obama’s more liberal instincts than they are to the views of Prime Minister Netanyahu. American policy in the Middle East isn’t about the policy preferences of American Jews.American Jews voted overwhelmingly against George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. More Jewish votes and more Jewish money went to Gore and Kerry than to Bush — but people all over the world blamed various aspects of the Bush foreign policy on ‘the Jews’. American Jews voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2008 and they will vote overwhelmingly for him again in 2012.None of this has the power to affect the strong conviction of so many people that “the Jews” are behind everything they don’t like about American Middle East policy. The anti-Semitic stereotypes that drive this picture of a monomaniacal, super-powerful Jewish lobby pushing poor helpless Uncle Sam into a Middle Eastern policy he hates are as contemptible as, sadly, they are widespread.Anti-Semites, however, need nothing as vulgar as evidence for their beliefs. They “know” that Jews are clannish, clever, obscenely rich, united, relentless, powerful, and inflexibly committed to hard line policies on Israel. They “know” that Jews control the media, buy and sell politicians, and generally rule the roost. Because of that intuitive knowledge, the anti-Semite can pierce the veil of illusion and deceit which “the Jews” weave around their activities.Mere facts like steadfast Jewish support for President Obama in his fights with Prime Minister Netanyahu have no impact on knowledge this deep, this intuitive. Mere observations about the hostility of the US mainstream media to Netanyahu and more broadly to Israeli settlements won’t shake the conviction among so many that a) “the Jews” run the media and b) that those powerful, media ruling Jews are hardline Likudniks.People who are guided by this intuition about Jewish power used to glory in the name of anti-Semite. Now they run from it. But anti-Semitism is what hostility toward Jews based on unfounded prejudice really is, and as Jews celebrate Passover this week and western Christians observe Holy Week and celebrate Easter, Via Meadia will still call a spade a spade.