What The Midterms Mean for the Jews
A quick chat with pollster Douglas Schoen
Douglas Schoen is a Democratic pollster whose latest book, co-written with Scott Rasmussen (of the eponymous polling outfit), is Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System. I called him up to get his thoughts on Tuesday’s results.
Which races did you work on, and were you pleased with the outcomes?
The only race I worked on was Andrew Cuomo’s [for governor of New York]. I was pleased with how we did. I was not particularly pleased with how the election turned out. It was a repudiation of Democratic policies and politics.
78 percent of Jews voted for President Obama in 2008; only 66 percent voted for Democrats yesterday. How does this bode for Obama’s prospect of receiving a similar level of Jewish support in 2012 as he did last time?
Elections are not only referenda on incumbents, they’re choices—particularly presidential elections. It isn’t clear what or who the Republican alternative nominee and policy will be and what Obama will say or do. My biggest and most obvious comment is I think it’s all a work in progress, uncertain.
Those statistics may suggest the beginnings of movement away from Obama. On the other hand, if Jews voted 66 percent, that’s still 20 points more Democratic than the rest of the country. That’s slippage, but compared to the national movement, it may well be less pronounced.
I think the Jewish community is concerned about Obama, I think there’s a lot of doubt. But I think what we’ve seen at the elite level, where there has been a move away from him, is not necessarily fully reflected in mass public opinion at this point.
For the first time, we saw some genuine members of the Tea Party be elected to powerful offices. Is this, as they say, good or bad for the Jews? What about for Israel?
Well it’s a good question, but the problem is I have not heard any of the Tea Party candidates provide a detailed description of what they would do on foreign policy or on Israel. I also have no clear sense whether the peace talks will be revived anytime soon. I have a big question mark over whether the election will impact the Jewish community or Israel.
Any closing thoughts?
Israel needs to have a message going forward of what it stands for positively: What are the goals of the Jewish state beyond resisting Arab incursion, beyond surviving. It is an extraordinary thing with viable industries, a talented workforce, diverse communities, that high-tech sector. I hope Israel is able to remain that, and hopefully the United States will do everything it can to support that.