Republican John McCain is gaining a larger share of the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote that could be a deciding factor in several battleground states, according to three recent polls.
He also appears to be more popular among younger Jews than those 55 and over—a striking finding that goes against the common wisdom that older Jews concerned about Barack Obama’s positions on Israel are a threat to the Democrat.
Obama has support among 57 percent of Jewish voters compared to McCain’s 30 percent. Another 13 percent are undecided, according to a telephone survey of one thousand American Jews conducted by the American Jewish Committee.
What’s striking, though, is how small Obama’s support is among a base that traditionally has leaned nearly 3 to 1 in favor of Democrats over the last few decades.
McCain is continuing a trend of increasing the Republican share of Jewish votes in recent presidential elections.
“…The undecided number is a little bit higher than what we'd expect at this stage of the campaign," Kenneth Bandler, director of communications at the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee, told the Voice of America.
"Senator Obama getting only 57 percent, it's a bit lower than one would expect from the Jewish electorate at this stage of the campaign," Bandler said. “Senator Kerry in 2004 at the same stage had 69 percent of the Jewish vote, and then he ended up with 76 percent."
What makes this statistic so important is that Jews are a key demographic in both Ohio and Florida—two states where polls show McCain is running neck-and-neck with Obama.
The survey also questioned American Jews' support for the two candidates'vice-presidential running mates.
"We found that 73 percent of the voters approve of Obama's selection of Senator Joe Biden as his running mate," Bandler says. "On the other hand, of Jews identified as Republicans, 37 percent approved of John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin."
In more promising news for McCain, a poll commissioned by Votefromisrael.org (VFI), a non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting voter registration and participation amongst American citizens living in Israel, 76 percent of polled American voters in Israel reported that they had voted for John McCain for President.
More than half of that group would likely be filing absentee ballots for Ohio and Florida. The poll, which was conducted by KEEVOON, a Jerusalem-based Research firm, was based upon data from 817 voters who attended US Election events in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv organized by VFI combined with on-line surveys.
“The margin was interesting because it was so broad-based,” said pollster Mitchell Barak, director of KEEVOON. “It was not just New York, and not just Republicans voting for McCain. His support was pretty consistent across the board demographically and geographically among the different States, among Americans who now live in Israel permanently and among those here temporarily.”
Less than one in four of the voters were registered Republicans. In fact, a full half of voters were Independents or not registered with either party—groups that favored McCain by a slightly wider 79-21 percent margin. Among registered Democrats, McCain made significant inroads, with 46 percent of Democrats crossing party lines to vote for McCain.
By contrast, the Republican crossover to Obama was minimal—just 2 percent.
McCain also may be gaining ground among younger Jews—a promising trend for future Republicans, experts say. A Gallup poll last week showed that Jews 55 and older prefer Obama at a rate of 74 percent, but Jews between the ages of 18-34 prefer him at 67 percent. The survey found that younger Americans Jews are far more likely to describe themselves as Conservative.
“Jewish-Americans are widely – an generally, justifiably – viewed as among the most reliable Democratic voters in the nation,” Jacques Berlinerblau, a professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University, wrote recently on The Washington Post’s Web site.
“Be that as it may, the pattern across the last four presidential races suggests that things may be slowly changing. George H.W. Bush received 11 percent of the Jewish Vote in 1992… Bob Dole got 16 percent in 1996. George W. Bush, 19 percent in 2000, and then 24 percent in 2004.”
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