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Jews and Obama, Again

This was bound to happen: American Jews coming around to support Barack Obama in numbers greater than seen in earlier polls. A new Gallup poll gives the Democratic candidate a 74-22 lead – similar to the advantage his Democratic predecessors have enjoyed:

The current proportion of U.S. Jews backing Obama is identical to the level of support the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards received in the 2004 presidential election (74%). It is only slightly lower than what Al Gore and Joe Lieberman received in 2000 (80%) — when the first Jewish American appeared on the presidential ticket of a major party.

Another poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, has similar results among Jewish voters in Florida. While this can’t be an indication for the tendencies of Jews around the country, Florida was the state in which the battle for Jewish voters was the fiercest. For McCain, losing the Jewish vote in Florida with such certainty is yet another indication for the trouble he has in securing a major state that was considered to be McCain territory not long ago:

Looking at all Florida likely voters, men split with 46 percent for Obama and 45 percent for McCain. Women back Obama 51 – 42 percent. The Republican leads 52 – 41 percent among white voters, 71 – 23 percent among evangelical Christians and 51 – 40 percent among Catholics. Obama leads 49 – 39 percent among Hispanics and 77 – 20 percent among Jews.

I’ve already started to explain why Jews vote for Obama, but I think these new polls shed some more light on the trend at hand. How can the new numbers be explained?

A.   More people say they’d vote for Obama, and Jews are also people. There’s no reason for them not to accommodate national trends.

B.   The bandwagon effect is even more forceful when it comes to Jewish voters to whom voting the Democratic ticket is a habit.

C.   In the last days of every campaign we see voters go back to their natural political position – for Jews this means voting for Obama.

D.   Sarah Palin was not well received in the Jewish community. If McCain was the unthreatening candidate, Palin reminded Jewish voters that Evangelicals still have power in the Republican Party, and Jews, it seems, don’t like to be reminded of that.

E.   Obama himself deserves a lot of credit: by and large he did a good job of neutralizing the Israel question by making statements and giving speeches making it clear that he will be a friend to Israel. This is what many Jewish voters needed to hear. When Obama made clear he was a friend, all McCain could do is point to policy differences and try to explain that Obama’s prospective policies–not his bad intentions–will be problematic for Israel. But since most voters aren’t policy wonks, and since that’s a much more nuanced argument, winning it is harder.


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