By Patrick Goodenough
In contrast to a recent survey finding that respondents in 21 countries around the world favor President Obama over Mitt Romney by a significant margin, a new opinion poll in Israel suggests that Jews in that country would be much happier to see the Republican candidate win.
Fifty-seven percent of Jewish respondents said that, "when it comes to Israel’s interests," they would prefer Romney as the next U.S. president, compared to 22 percent who said the same of Obama.
Among Israeli Arab respondents, Obama was favored by a 45-15 point margin.
The Peace Index poll, a project of Tel Aviv University and the independent Israel Democracy Institute, was conducted last week and released on Monday.
Breaking down the Jewish response, among those identifying themselves as on the right 70 percent preferred Romney and 13 percent favored Obama. Among self-identified leftists, Obama led by 51-30 points. In the political center, Romney was favored over his Democratic rival by 54 points to 25.
U.S. support for Israel, particularly in the face of the challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program, has featured fairly prominently during the U.S. election campaign, with the Jewish state mentioned almost three dozen times during last week’s foreign policy debate in Florida alone.
The Peace Index poll focused mainly on Israelis’ views relating to their own country’s political situation. Early elections have been called there for January after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed to secure agreement for a budget for 2013.
Sixty-nine percent of Jewish respondents said they did not believe the results of the U.S. election next week would have a direct impact on Israelis vote in January, although 51 percent of Arabs polled said they thought the U.S. results would affect voting in Israel.
Among issues most important to Israeli voters, 42 percent of Jewish respondents placed peace and security at the top of the list, 31 percent picked social issues such as education and reducing socio-economic gaps, and 21 percent chose maintaining economy stability.
Among Arabs, 59 percent said peace and security topped their election concerns, compared to 25.5 percent economic stability and 12 percent social issues.
In a BBC World Service poll published last week, respondents in 21 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Western Hemisphere favored Obama over Romney by an average margin of five-to-one.
Slipping Support for Obama Among Jewish Voters
Judging from past elections in the U.S., Israeli Jews’ views on Romney versus Obama reflected in the Peace Index poll are not expected to be replicated among American Jews next week—although there have been signs of eroding Jewish support for the Democratic Party since 2008.
Since the 1960s, U.S. Jews have voted Democrat in every presidential election by between 64 and 80 percent—with one exception. Jews favored Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan by just 45-39 points in 1980, according to American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Michael Barone.
In 2008 Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by a 78-21 point margin.
Barone in a recent analysis noted slipping support for Obama among Jewish voters, citing among others a Feb. 2012 Pew Research Center survey finding that Democratic identification among Jews had dropped from 72 to 66 percent and Republican identification grown from 20 to 28 percent between 2008 and 2012.
"There is always a tendency to ascribe changes in Jewish voting patterns to issues relating to Israel," Barone wrote. "But responses to issue questions in the AJC [American Jewish Committee] surveys suggest that while some of the decline in Obama’s standing is prompted by Israel issues, some is due more to economic and other issues on which Obama has had problems with voters generally."
He predicted that Jewish voters would favor Obama by a little less than two to one, compared to a little less than four to one four years ago.
Although Jewish voting patterns are closely watched, non-Jewish pro-Israel voters, many of them evangelical Christians, constitute a far larger segment of the American electorate.
- Romney reaffirms tough position on Iran, promises to keep Israel in the loop • Times of Israel
- Poll: Israeli Jews favor Romney by wide margin • Jerusalem Post
- Rabbi to US expats in Israel: Vote Romney • Ynet News
- Israeli Jews Prefer Romney, Israeli Arabs Prefer Obama by Wide Margins • Algemeiner
- Obama: 8 Reasons Those Who Love Israel Should Be Concerned • Israel Today (Ron Cantor)