If someone had asked me yesterday if President Barack Obama could count on the same level of support from the American Jewish community in the 2012 elections as he had in 2008, I would have been inclined to say that while a majority of Jews will support the Democratic President, that support will not be quite as large as the 83% of all Jewish voters who helped elect him in 2008.
As someone who reads multiple hard and online Jewish publications daily, I’m all too aware of the disapproval many vocal American Jews have expressed about President Obama’s relations with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. If I’ve head or read the sentiment once, I’ve heard angry voices in the Jewish community express the sentiment many times that, “Obama threw Israel under a bus.” Many, of my fellow co-religionists and fellow Zionists whom I like to describe as being of the mentality, “Israel can do no wrong,” believe that President Obama’s efforts a couple of years ago to push the right-wing Prime Minister of Israel to be more aggressive and accommodating in his efforts to achieve a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, were uncalled for and inexcusable. But you’d have to ask them why they think the leader of the free-world should not be encouraging an ally to move ahead with accomplishing an important goal that the ally and the rest of the world are all in agreement on.
Much to my pleasant surprise, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) is reporting that a study has found similar levels of enthusiastic support for President Obama in the American Jewish community today as in 2008. Why? There are two apparent reasons: First, most American Jews when asked about how their Jewish values influence their political preferences, a plurality of 46% said “commitment to social equality” determines how they vote. In other words, those political parties or politicians who express sentiments that denigrate or disenfranchise segments of society are not going to find a lot of friends and supporters among American Jews.
Of the more than 1,000 American Jews randomly selected to participate in the study, only 20% indicated that support for Israel is ‘the’ single most important issue that influences their voting preferences. Such statistics should serve as a wake up call to groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition and the
Emergency Committee for Israel who are quite literally committed to scaring American Jews away from supporting President Obama. One can visit the web sites of such groups on any given day and find glaring headlines about how the Obama administration is compromising Israel’s security. Feel free to question their unfounded insinuations which are based more on Fox-Noise logic than reality.
The PRRI study did indicate that approximately 7% of Jewish voters who voted for President Obama in 2008 did indicate that for one reason or another they will probably vote for the Republican nominee in 2012. When all is said and done though, American Jews are clearly not one issue voters. While most American Jews remain concerned for Israel’s security, they have no reason to doubt this President’s verbal, financial and military commitments to the Jewish State. And those same values that first attracted Jewish immigrants to the Democratic Party more than a century ago appear to still be drawing most American Jews towards the progressive party that champions equality and social justice.
As is the case with many if not most American voters, Jews are clearly not buying into the calculated efforts of the political right to demonize this President, question his motives, sincerity and capacity to lead.