Last week, Ben Smith reported an unquanitified but nonetheless very real “tipping point,” caused by President Obama’s May “1967 borders” speech, which, Smith argued, “crystallized the doubts many pro-Israel Democrats had about Obama in 2008 in a way that could, on the margins, cost the president votes and money in 2012 and will not be easy to repair.” Today, in a report that, unusually, explicitly rebuked Smith’s piece, Gallup released a new poll finding that Jewish support of Obama remains exactly where it was, compared to that of the general population, before the May speech. In June, 60 percent of Jews approved of Obama’s job, while 32 percent disapproved. Just as importantly, 46 percent of the general public in June approved of Obama’s job, and “the 14-percentage-point difference in the two groups’ approval ratings in June … is identical to the average gap seen over the past two and a half years.” In a subsequent section headlined, “Israel Speech Not a Watershed in Jewish Views Toward Obama,” Gallup shows that Jewish Americans’ views of Obama in May before and after the speech were essentially (and statistically) unchanged. Smith’s conclusions, Gallup itself concludes, “may apply to certain politically active members of the Jewish-American community, but according to recent Gallup trends, is not reflective of the views of Jewish Americans more generally.”
Smith pushes back gently, noting that he was not making a broad claim and that the Obama campaign wouldn’t feel the need to make its claim to Jewish voters if it weren’t somewhat concerned. (The new talk is that, at long last, Obama is planning to visit Israel.) And anyway, as both Smith and Gallup seem to agree, it is important to remember that, as far as voting is concerned, support for Obama does not occur in a vacuum, but rather in the context of the alternative candidate—which is to say, the Republican presidential nominee. Who that is, and how good a job he or she can do reaching Jewish voters on Israel while not alienating them on all the issues that have long made the Democratic Party the home of the vast majority of Jewish voters—and all this in November 2012, not July 2011—will make far more difference.
Meanwhile, one other Gallup finding, unrelated to this larger narrative, confirms past findings and what we’ve long known, but still never ceases to provoke. About half of one group of Jewish voters has approved of Obama over the past three months, while more than one third of the same group disapproved of him; more than two-third of another group of Jewish voters has approved of Obama over the past three months, while only one quarter of this group disapproved of him. The two groups? The former, who are not as bullish on Obama, attend synagogue weekly or nearly weekly; the latter, who do still like the president by and large, attend synagogue rarely or never. The observance gap, to my mind, is the more fascinating dynamic.
Obama May Be Losing the Faith of Jewish Democrats [Politico]
Solid Majority of Jewish Americans Still Approve of Obama [Gallup]
No Exodus [Ben Smith]
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador: Obama Planning to Visit Israel [Haaretz]