AJC Annual Survey Reveals Declining Jewish Support for President Obama

Sep 26, 2011, 08:22 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Disappointment with President Obama's handling of the economy and U.S.-Israel relations has caused a falloff in Jewish support for the administration, a just-completed national survey by AJC, a non-partisan advocacy organization, shows.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100816/AJCLOGO)

For the first time during Obama's presidency, disapproval among Jewish voters exceeded approval of his performance. Jewish approval of Obama's handling of his job as president declined to 45 percent, with another 48 percent disapproving and 7 percent undecided, according to the survey, conducted from September 6 to 21, 2011. In the last annual AJC survey, a year ago, 51 percent approved, and 44 percent disapproved.

"AJC annual surveys seek to provide timely information on the attitudes of Jews across our nation regarding the pressing issues confronting our community and the country," said AJC Executive David Harris. "Just as in previous years, this year's survey offers a treasure-trove of data – and, as always, a few surprises." One of the most striking findings is the divergence of opinion between Orthodox Jews and the views of Conservative and Reform Jews.

The full 2011 survey, as well as previous AJC annual surveys, are available at www.ajc.org.

2012 Presidential Election

Looking ahead to the 2012 presidential race, the AJC survey revealed that if the election were held today, Obama would still hold a considerable lead over potential Republican challengers among Jewish voters. But the margin differed significantly depending on which candidate the GOP fields.

Mitt Romney would get 32 percent of the Jewish vote, according to the poll, against Obama's 50 percent. Another 16 percent of respondents said they wouldn't vote for either of the two candidates, and 2 percent were undecided.

Rick Perry would get 25 percent of the vote against Obama's 55 percent, with another 18 percent voting for neither, and 2 percent undecided.

Michele Bachmann would receive 19 percent of the vote against Obama's 59 percent, with 21 percent voting for neither, and 1 percent undecided.

In 2008, Obama garnered 78 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to 22 percent for John McCain.

Economy, National Security

Approval of Obama's handling of the economy dropped to 37 percent from 45 percent a year ago and 55 percent in the spring of 2010. Disapproval of the administration's economic policies rose to 60 percent in the latest poll, up from 51 percent a year ago.

By contrast, on Obama's handling of national security, 68 percent approve and 28 percent disapprove in 2011, while 62 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved in 2010.

U.S.-Israel Relations

Obama's handling of U.S.-Israel relations received the approval of 40 percent, with another 53 percent disapproving and 7 percent undecided. A year ago, 49 percent of respondents approved and another 45 percent disapproved.

Approval of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of Israel-U.S. relations dropped to 54 percent, with another 32 percent disapproving and 13 percent undecided. A year ago, 62 percent of the Jews polled approved of Netanyahu's handling of the bilateral relationship, while another 27 percent disapproved and 11 percent said they weren't sure.

In general, 63 percent of American Jews characterize U.S.-Israel relations as positive and 36 percent as negative. In 2010, 68 percent were positive and 31 percent negative about U.S.-Israel relations.

Arab-Israel Peace

Perceptions of prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Arabs have also taken a downward turn. Less than 3 percent of respondents said they were "more optimistic" about the peace prospects now than they had been one year ago, compared with 8 percent feeling "more optimistic" in last year's survey. This year, 35 percent of respondents said their outlook has become "less optimistic", compared to 18 percent last year.

Support for a Palestinian state also declined in the past year. The new survey showed that, in the current situation, 38 percent would favor, and 55 percent would oppose, the establishment of a Palestinian state. A year ago, the AJC survey found 48 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.

On a related question concerning Palestinian efforts to unilaterally seek recognition of statehood without an agreement with Israel, only 9 percent approved of this strategy, while 88 percent disapproved.

Support for requiring the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is strong, with 95 percent saying they should be required to do so in a final peace agreement.

Regarding U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, 73 percent of American Jews would support, and 21 percent oppose, the U.S. Congress withdrawing assistance if the PA and Hamas form a unity government.

Iran Nuclear Threat

Regarding Iran, 43 percent approve, and 45 percent disapprove, of the Obama administration's handling of the Iran nuclear issue, a similar finding to the 2010 survey. The new survey also finds, as last year, that a majority, 71 percent, say there is "little" or "no" chance that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons

Party Affiliation

The percentage of Jewish voters who identified themselves as Democrats has also been in gradual decline over the past few years. It dropped to 45 percent this year, down from 48 percent a year ago and 53 percent in the fall of 2009.

While the share of those who considered themselves Republicans remained virtually unchanged – with 16 percent this year, compared to 17 percent a year before and 16 percent in 2009 – the share of self-identified Independents has expanded to 38 percent this year, up from 34 percent a year ago and 30 percent in 2009.

Survey Method

Conducted annually since 1990, AJC's surveys often are cited as an authoritative barometer of American Jewish opinion on a range of issues. All surveys are available at www.ajc.org.

The AJC survey was conducted by Synovate, a leading research organization. The 800 respondents were interviewed by telephone from September 6 to 21, 2011. AJC is a 501(c)(3) organization that neither supports nor opposes candidates for elected office.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee