Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow considered the recent Pew finding that 33 percent of American Jews identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, which is significantly higher than in 2008 and 2006. Blow concludes that President Obama has alienated some members of this constituency by “having taken a hard rhetorical stance with Israel, while taking ‘special time and care on our relationship with the Muslim world,’ as Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, put it in June.” It is a pretty sloppy column: There are several problems with it, the chief one being that it fails to mention that this is an unusually Republican year overall, and the only weird thing would be if that weren’t reflected in the (still overwhelmingly Democratic) Jewish numbers.
Eric Alterman has a nice response:
Barack Obama, like pretty much every Democrat before him, remains more popular with Jews than with just about any other ethnic group in America, save blacks. His approval rating among Jews, steady in the low 60s, is about 15 percent higher than it is with the goyim. Neoconservatives have been predicting a Jewish turn toward the Republicans since George McGovern only got about two-thirds of the Jewish vote—that’s right, only two-thirds—and yet it never happens. … Even so, on what authority does Blow have it that most American Jews decide their vote purely on the issue of Israel, or that Obama’s policies toward Israel are particularly unpopular with Jews? Blow may be without doubt on these points, but he is also without any reliable evidence.
I don’t think Obama’s somewhat tougher stance on peace-process issues is unrelated (and nor, I’d bet, does Alterman, though he also notes that the Obama administration has facilitated unprecedented military aid and cooperation between the United States and Israel). But the dominant dynamic this year is: Fewer Americans are Democrats; Jews are Americans; therefore, fewer Jews are Democrats.