How Big Was Obama's Jewish Win?

GOP and Democrats Spar Over Dip in Support From 2008

Parsing the Vote: President Barack Obama won a slightly smaller share of the Jewish vote in 2012, compared to last time, polls suggest. But what does it all mean?
getty images
Parsing the Vote: President Barack Obama won a slightly smaller share of the Jewish vote in 2012, compared to last time, polls suggest. But what does it all mean?

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 07, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Jewish Democrats noted that Obama received 74% of Jewish votes and therefore the decline in Jewish support amounts to 5 percentage points. The 74% baseline reflects a compilation of national and local exit polling data from 2008 which was completed last year.

Republicans, on the other hand, like to compare this year’s outcome to the initial national exit poll figure from 2008 which stood at 78%, thus reflecting a decline of 9 percentage points in support for Obama. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, called 78% the “gold standard figure” for analyzing the ’08 Jewish vote. Obama supporters argued, in response, that it would be wrong to use partial exit poll data when more accurate information exists.

The difference is significant. A 9 percentage point shift, as Republicans see it, would indicate major success for efforts to sway Jewish voters away from the Democratic side. On the flip side, a 5 percentage point decline could be seen as reflecting the general drop in support for Obama. The president won by a popular vote margin that was about 3 percentage points less than he did in 2008. In many core Democratic constituencies except African-American and Latino voters, support in 2012 dropped by similar amounts.

“The shift in Jewish vote reflects the shift in other constituencies,” said Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein who conducted a Jewish vote survey for J Street on election day. Other Democrats described the 4-to-5 percentage point change as being within the statistical margin of error.

The figures also vary slightly depending on the party conducting the polling. J Street’s pollwhich was carried out by calling Jewish voters after they cast their ballots on Tuesday, found the Jewish vote split 70/30 in favor of Obama on the national level. In Ohio 69% of the Jewish voters supported Obama and in Florida 68% voted for the Democratic candidate. A similar poll commissioned by the RJC and conducted by Arthur Finkelstein found only 60.8% of Jews voted for Obama, with 7.6% either refusing to answer or stating they voted for “someone else” and 31.6% for Romney. This, Republicans say, is a dramatic increase in Jewish support for a Republican candidate.

Both sides also disagree over what drove Jewish voter to choose either candidate. Gerstein’s poll asked voters to list the most important issues determining their vote and found that just as any other segment of the population, most Jewish voters (53%) were primarily concerned with the economy and that Israel was a determining issue for only 10%.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.