Yes, President Obama still dominates the Jewish vote, beating out Mitt Romney 64 percent to 39 percent, according to the newest Gallup poll. But considering that Obama racked up a whopping 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, this is a significant dip for him.
Among Jews, Obama’s current 64 percent to 29 percent advantage compares with a 74 percent to 23 percent advantage before the election in 2008. Thus, he is running 10 points lower among Jewish registered voters than in 2008, which is five points worse than his decline among all registered voters compared with 2008.
These numbers aren’t just notable because of what they say about Obama — the Republican Jewish Coalition notes that Mitt Romney’s 29 percent support would be “the highest level of Jewish support for a Republican presidential candidate in 24 years.”
Obama’s polling numbers with Jewish voters were at times lower than 64 percent during the 2008 election. But that was also before he cinched the Democratic nomination, and when Hillary Clinton was still in the race. Since 1992, Democratic presidential nominees averaged around 79 percent of the Jewish vote, according to the National Jewish Democratic Council. It would be a huge coup if Romney was actually able to capture 29 percent of the vote (John McCain won 21 percent in 2008).
And this may not be Obama’s only problem with Jewish voters. A new initiative called “I Vote Israel” is encouraging Americans living in Israel (Jews and non-Jews) to register and vote absentee in the upcoming election. According to the website, even American-Israelis who have never lived in the U.S. can vote if they are the children of U.S. citizens. As the website explains:
We are a diverse group of olim, recent arrivals as well as vatikim from all over the country who are deeply concerned about the safety, security and future of Israel. Most importantly, we want to see a president in the White House who will support and stand by Israel in absolute commitment to its safety, security and right to defend itself.
Since we believe that “there is no such thing as friends in politics, only interests,” we started thinking about how to be proactive about this. One fact that caught our eye was that while the 2000 Bush-Gore Presidential elections all came down to 537 absentee ballots cast in Florida, only 64 of those – out of the many thousands of Floridian-Israelis – were cast from Israel! More recently, the NY 9th Congressional District 2011 special elections (to replace Anthony Weiner) – a district with huge numbers of olim – were decided by just 2,000 votes, very few by absentee ballot from Israel. There are dozens more of such examples across the 50 states.
“I Vote Israel” reports that there are between 200,000 and 500,000 American citizens living in Israel — on the upper end of that range, that’s nearly as many as the number of Jewish voters in the entire state of Florida. These votes would be spread out through various states (the last state of residence — or parents’ residence — is where American-Israelis would be eligible to vote), but in certain states, particularly Florida, even a few thousand votes could have an impact. The effort is non-partisan, but as we know, Obama’s approval ratings among Israelis have ranged from unimpressive to dismal.