A new survey finds that, as right-wing groups have said, many American Jews take some issue with President Obama’s Israel policies. But it primarily finds, as many liberals have claimed, that such concerns are far outweighed by economic and social considerations, such that Obama should not expect a significant decrease in American Jewish support come November.
Sixty-two percent of the 1,004 respondents to the survey, which was conducted by the independent Public Religion Research Institute, said they preferred that President Obama win in 2012—which is, according to PRRI, the same number who would have said this at this time in 2008. 63 percent said they actually did vote for Obama in 2008 (exit polls showed Obama winning 78 percent of the Jewish vote; ten percent of respondents said they did not vote at all). By contrast, only 29 percent of respondents said they would prefer the Republican candidate. And they cited support for Democratic over Republican congressional candidates by a more than two-to-one margin.
Perhaps most tellingly: economic issues, including “The Economy,” “Health care,” “The growing gap between rich and poor,” and “The federal deficit,” were what a combined 81 percent of respondents said was their highest-priority; 50 percent alone pointed to “The Economy.” “National security,” “Israel,” and “Iran,” by contrast, combined for ten percent.
“Social and economic justice are central values for informing how American Jews think about civic engagement and political participation,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, PRRI’s CEO, in a statement. “These values resonate with religious Jews as well as Jews who identify as culturally or ethnically Jewish.”
In one question in which Jews are asked to rate how warmly or not they feel toward other groups on a scale of 1 to 100, Muslims score on the low end, with a mean of 41.4. Nearly twice as low? The Christian Right, with a mean of 20.9.
“Many American Jews might consider voting for ‘someone else,’ but only a fraction would consider voting for the type of person that the GOP is likely to nominate,” columnist Michelle Goldberg argued last year. “American Jews have shown, again and again, that they care more about social justice and a defense of American pluralism than a zealous defense of Israeli maximalism. They might get anxious about liberal criticism of Israel, but this anxiety tends to pale beside their abhorrence of the Christian right.”
Twenty-eight percent disagree with Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policies, while only 20 percent agree and like how he is “executing” them, 15 percent agree but don’t like how he’s executing them, and the plurality, 34 percent, are “Not sure.” 61 percent believe Prime Minister Netanyahu “represents Jewish values” well or somewhat well, higher than all the other figures, including other high-scorers like Justice Kagan and Jon Stewart and lower ones like Rep. Eric Cantor and Sarah Silverman. (14 percent are “unfamiliar with” Bibi.)
Should the U.S. take military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb if economic sanctions fail? 59 percent say yes; 37 percent say no. Only 53 percent support a Palestinian state; 42 percent oppose one. Israel-U.S. relations are “better” (seven percent), “worse” (37 percent), or “about the same” (54 percent). These are the figures the right is going to point to.
On social issues, it’s as you’d expect. 81 percent strongly favor or favor same-sex marriage; 69 percent strongly favor or favor tougher, pro-environment regulations “even if it raises prices or costs jobs”; 81 percent strongly favor or favor raising taxes on those making more than $1 million per year; and a sky-high 93 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
But you already knew all of that.