J Street has commissioned its first opinion survey seeking to determine the level of support among American Jews for territorial compromise and a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict (summary). There will be those of my right-wing readers who may doubt the results given J Street’s clear political commitments. But the poll actually dovetails nicely with the AJC annual survey results on similar questions.
One of the more interesting survey results was a mixed finding: when asked whether Israel played a “big role” in their election vote, 58% answered “yes.” But when listed among a group of other issues, Israel came out in the bottom tier of issues and only 8% noted Israel was one of their two top issues in determining their vote for president or Congress. This interesting outcome indicates that theoretically Jews believe Israel is an important political issue. But when push comes to shove there are other bread and butter issues like the economy and Iraq war which are far more important. To me, this indicates that support for the Israel lobby is quite shallow among the Jewish community outside that 8% who are driven by the issue.
It’s no surprise that Jews disapprove of Bush’ job performance though the 16% rating is even lower than I thought it might be. Obama beats McCain in the poll by 62% to 32%. This is a respectable showing by McCain compared to past Republican presidential races, but still quite low.
Respondents disapproved of Bush’s Middle East policy and believe he should be much more engaged in lobbying for peace. 61% believe Israel is “less secure” than it was before his presidency. Only 26% believe it is more secure.
When asked whether the solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict involved negotiating peace agreements or relying on military force alone to achieve security, the survey endorsed the former over the latter by 50% to 34%.
Fully 75% of those polled believe that the U.S. should play an aggressive role in promoting a negotiated peace even if it meant disagreeing publicly with the positions of the parties to the conflict. 70% were even willing for the U.S. to exert “pressure” on those parties it saw as impeding progress toward a settlement. This has to be bad news for the Republican Jewish Coalition which lamely attempts to claim every election cycle that Democrats are soft on Israel because they are more likely to support U.S. policy saying that Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace. This poll shows that American Jews would not have a problem with any Administration that took an assertive role in defending this position.
Joe Lieberman isn’t going to like the following results. Only 7% of poll respondents view evangelical Zionist leader John Hagee favorably. Only 19% have a favorable impression of Christians United for Israel. Only 1 in 4 said Jewish groups should form alliances with CUFI (are you listening Joe, or do you care?). Finally, Holy Joe himself only earns a 37% favorable rating (48% unfavorable).
Regarding Iran: 69% said they were more likely to support a candidate who called for negotiations with Iran and resorting to sanctions if they failed.
Several results I found alarming: 48% were more likely to vote for a candidate who called for supporting Israel if it launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran. That indicates not enough American Jews understand that our national interests may diverge from Israel’s.
65% were more likely to support a candidate who said (falsely by the way) that Arabs have repeatedly rejected Israeli peace offers. Only 44% support the idea of declaring East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.
58% support Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in return for peace with Syria. 59% support withdrawal from “most” of the West Bank. 52% believe the U.S. should tell Israel to “end settlement expansion.” 76% believe Israel should negotiate with Hamas on behalf of peace. 54% believe that IDF killings of Palestinian civilians lead to more terror. 61% are opposed to collective punishment (Israel’s current policy toward Gaza). 81% will support “any peace deal” agreed to by Israel with its Arab neighbors. One should keep this fact in mind when listening to the geshrei from the Orthodox community, which calls any territorial compromise on Jerusalem a betrayal of the Jewish people. Only a very small minority of American Jews agree.
Quite frankly, I was shocked that AIPAC itself earned only a 38% favorable rating (21% unfavorable). 60% say it does not bother them when American Jews disagree with Israeli government policy. When asked whether traditional Jewish groups in general do a good job of representing the community’s views on Israel 49% agreed. When asked specifically whether AIPAC did a good job that number fell to 34%. All this again showing the weakness of the AIPAC when it is viewed in the context of the overall Jewish community.
JTA once again produced bizarrely skewed reporting on the survey which focussed largely on Obama’s alleged lack of support among Jews:
American Jews are less supportive of Barack Obama than previous Democratic nominees, a new poll found.
The lack of support comes despite overwhelming unhappiness with the Bush administration.
I find it interesting that 62% constitutes a “lack of support.” Would you say JTA is telegraphing its own prejudices or just guilty of sloppy journalism (or both)?
I’ll give anyone who discovers the weakness of the following claim honorary membership in the Tikun Olam fan club:
Al Gore and Bill Clinton both drew approximately 80 percent of the Jewish vote in their respective runs for the presidency, while John Kerry garnered about 76 percent in 2004.
The correct way to make this comparison would be using the percentage of support for each candidate AT THIS STAGE in the campaign, and not to compare Obama’s ranking now with Gore, Clinton’s or Kerry’s on Election Day. I’ll bet JTA that Obama’s ranking by Election Day will be significantly higher than it is now and come close to, match or exceed Kerry’s.
Finally, not a word in the JTA story about the survey’s findings regarding the I-P conflict. Strange that a poll, 95% of whose questions dealt with that subject and 5% of whose questions dealt with presidential candidates focussed laser-like on the latter and ignored the former. But it’s what we’ve come to expect of JTA.
I enthusiastically endorse this statement which concluded the poll summary:
J Street has enormous opportunities to give voice to a Jewish public that holds beliefs and values which are very different from the positions regularly conveyed by many Jewish leaders and organizations.
The J Street poll is yet another indication that the hawkish policy pronouncements of the Israel lobby and specifically AIPAC represent no one but themselves and their members when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict. The majority of American Jews don’t go along.