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New Poll Finds ‘1967’ Speech Had No Impact

Post-speech, 60 percent of Jewish voters approve of Obama

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President Obama last week.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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]

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Why do you find “the observance gap” to be “the more fascinating dynamic?” I don’t mean this as snark; I’m genuinely curious.

Since this “observance gap” has been seen amongst non-Jews as well (not relating to Israel, but determining whether one will lean Republican or Democrat), one can only be reminded of the dictum that Jews are like everyone else, only more so.

Marc Tracy says:

I honestly just find it interesting! I didn’t mean that as a snark or something implied.

The apparent “observance gap” may be deceptive, reflective really of a denominational gap between the Orthodox and everyone else. Orthodoxy correlates significantly, but not completely, with observance, and there is solid evidence that Orthodox identification, not observance itself, is the critical factor in the political divide.

For more details on this, see this blog post:

Steve Westman says:

Unfortunately (to my way of thinking, at least) Orthodox Jews are “single issue”voters when it comes to Israel, in exactly the same way that anti-abortion people only know one thing–so-and-so is either “pro-life” or is public enemy#1. There’s no subtlety, no recognition of multiple issues; only “is it good for Israel”(meaning the right wing represented by Likud)So, again, we Jews are like everyone else, only more so!As an Obama supporter since day#1, I’m pleased by Gallup’s findngs;stay tuned for more twists and turns as 2012 gets closer!

Onoma Shem says:

With respect, Steve, I think you run afoul of your own principles of (to paraphrase your own words) subtlety and the recognition of multiple issues. I don’t think it’s especially sophisticated, subtle, or broad-minded to tar an entire denomination of people with the same brush and insist that they are all simple-minded and monolithic.

I am an Orthodox Jew and an Obama supporter. I don’t agree with 100% of what he says and does, but I don’t agree with 100% of anything any politician says about any issue. So I pick the best match for my ideology, and for me, that’s the President, with whom I agree probably 9 times out of 10. But then, whoops, there I go not conforming to your one-size-fits-all diagnosis of who I must be as an Orthodox Jew.

I am not some kind of radical outlier. The 2000 National Jewish Population Study has data showing that about half of Orthodox Jews are politically conservative. (The dataset is freely available online at North American Jewish Databank.) That makes Jewry as a whole (which is something like 70% liberal) look at Orthodoxy as the right-wing sheep of the family, and logically so… but it still leaves fully half of us either centrist or liberal.

But that’s not really the point. The point is to respect people as individuals. Many people I love in the Orthodox world support the President, and many do not. But none of them care about only one thing in the world, none of them are stupid, and none of them are cartoon characters.

You ought to think before demonizing ALL the Orthodox based on what some individuals do and say. I don’t know what denomination you are, but I can only assure you that I will not hold it against anyone else in your denomination that you have been so quick to generalize.


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New Poll Finds ‘1967’ Speech Had No Impact

Post-speech, 60 percent of Jewish voters approve of Obama

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