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?
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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.
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Finkelstein’s survey paints a different picture. The RJC poll asked voters how important issues concerning Israel were in deciding for whom to vote and found 76.5% describing Israel as an important issue. The reason for the significant disparity lays in the formulation of the question.

The dispute between Democrats and Republicans over how the Jewish vote broke could be viewed as no more than a fight over organizational prestige, but at least on the Republican side it has to do with the group’s reason for existing. RJC has poured an unprecedented amount of money this election cycle on trying to convince Jewish Americans to vote Republican, stressing the issue of Israel as a key selling point. Any result short of a significant shift could put in question the need for such an investment.

Brooks said he believes his group’s numbers show “we got a good return on the investment we made,” since the results are “very significant in terms of moving the needle in the Jewish community.”

Gerstein, on the other hand, argued that, “all this money spent trying to move the Jewish vote on Israel didn’t matter.” He pointing to his research that showed Jews in Florida were not swayed by watching TV ads criticizing Obama for his policy on Iran and Israel.

Adding more to the data dump on Jewish election polling, Jewish Democrats released on Wednesday data from a survey the National Jewish Democratic Council had conducted for internal use during the last months of the campaign. The poll carried out by the Mellman Group, concluded that a counter campaign led by Jewish Democrats in Florida succeeded in offsetting Republican gains seen after an intense ad campaign directed at Jewish voters. Democrats assert it won back more than 100,000 voters, potentially enough to have swung the election in their favor in the Sunshine State.

Much of this polling and data analysis dispute is done with big donors in mind. Republicans and Democrats struggle to keep interest in funding outreach efforts to Jewish voters. Ari Flesicher, a former spokesman in George W. Bush’s and RJC activist, said that at a time of decline in support for the GOP among other constituencies, Jewish voters have special importance. He pointed to the swing states of Ohio and Florida and said the battle in these states wouldn’t have been that close without Jewish voters increasing their support for the Republican candidate.

Jewish Democrats have argued this election cycle that an increase in GOP efforts to gain Jewish voters requires them to boost their operations as well, in order to stop any possible bleeding toward the Republican side.


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