John McLaughlin, who recently conducted a poll of American Jews, reviewed his results in a conference call today. He stressed that although exit polls showed 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama, it is significant that 46 percent would now consider voting for someone else. That number is dramatically higher among Orthodox voters (69 percent) and somewhat higher among denominationally Conservative Jews (50 percent) as well as those with family in Israel (48 percent) or those who had been to Israel (49 percent). This pattern – linking criticism of Obama with religious observance and affiliation with Israel — held on virtually all questions, including Obama’s job approval, the imposition of a peace plan, and the division of Jerusalem. On Obama’s job performance, for example, 80 percent of Orthodox Jews disapprove, and 50 of Conservatives disapprove, but only 26 percent of Reform Jews.
I asked McLaughlin if Reform Jews were also more liberal. He answered, “They are definitely more Democratic, more liberal and more concerned about domestic issues.” I also asked about the correlation between support for Obama and age. His poll screened for likely voters in the coming November and suggested there will be a drop-off in general among younger voters from 2008, which brought many new voters to the poll. Within American Jewry, older voters are more loyal to Obama and to the party. Among voters over 55 years old, only 42 percent would consider voting for someone other than Obama, while 52 percent under 55 would. In the sample, among voters over 55 years old, 64 percent were Democrats, while “only” 53 percent under 55 identified as Democrats. As a group, however, Jews remain far more liberal (40 percent identified as such in the poll, only 21 percent as conservative) than voters in general.
McLaughlin stressed that it is unusual for a Democratic president to potentially lose the support of Jews and that the issue with Israel has created a potential wedge between Obama and this constituency. He advises to keep an eye on some key Congressional races for signs of dissatisfaction with Democrats among Jewish voters — the special election in Pennsylvania’s District 12 and some New York races, including in District 4, as well as Mark Kirk’s seat in Illinois.
Is there an opening for Republicans to make headway with Jewish voters? Among Orthodox, Conservative, and young voters, most certainly. But stay tuned, as we have learned it takes a lot to separate overwhelmingly liberal Jews from their Democratic affiliation.