The American Jewish Committee released its annual survey of American Jewish opinion today. The headline on the press release reads: “AJC Survey Shows U.S. Jews Sharply Divided Over Obama Approach on Iran.”
Here are the first two paragraphs:
April 9, 2010 – New York – As President Obama prepares to host the leaders of more than 40 countries at a nuclear summit in Washington, a new AJC survey shows that a majority of American Jews are deeply divided over how the president is handling the threat of Iran’s nuclear program. According to the just-concluded AJC 2010 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, 47 percent approve the president’s strategy, 42 percent disapprove, and 11 percent are unsure. A full 68 percent of U.S. Jews believe there is either “little” or “no” chance of sanctions and diplomacy curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Fifty-three percent would support, and 42 percent oppose, U.S. military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, while 62 percent would support, and 33 percent oppose, Israeli military action.
Interestingly, the finding that was spotlighted in the headline — about handling of Iranian nukes — is the only question in the actual survey on which support for Obama was less than 50%. The other figures are noted in the press release, but lower down and contextualized rather interestingly.
What’s not in the press release, by the way, is the sharp rise in American Jewish opposition to a U.S. military strike on Iran. This year’s response, again, was 53% for a strike, 42% against. In last year’s AJC survey, the figures were 56% for and 36% against.
The press release continues:
President Obama’s overall performance as president won an approval of 57 percent, with 38 percent disapproving, a little more than a year after he assumed office. Exit polls in the 2008 election showed that President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote. Conducted annually since 1990, AJC’s surveys often are cited as the most authoritative barometer of American Jewish opinion on a range of issues. “If past is prologue, some ideologically-driven groups will cherry pick the results that buttress their particular claims, but the richness and depth of the survey data offers a multifaceted – and, therefore, complex – picture of American Jewish thinking on the key international affairs and domestic policy challenges facing the United States,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “While some issues generate a strong consensus, others reveal deep divisions, a pattern that has emerged consistently in these AJC surveys over the years.” On the economy, health care, and homeland security, Obama scores somewhat higher ratings among Jews than the general American population. Fifty-five percent approve, and 42 percent disapprove, of the president’s handling of the economy; 50 percent approve, while 48 percent disapprove, of his handling of health care; and, on his handling of homeland security, 62 percent approve, and 33 percent disapprove. Regarding the Obama Administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, 55 percent approve and 37 percent disapprove. In the 2009 AJC Annual Survey, 54 percent approved and 32 percent disapproved. On a related question, 57 percent approve of the Netanyahu government’s handling of Israel-U.S. relations, while 30 percent disapprove.
Here is how the general American public views Obama, according to a USA Today / Gallup poll taken March 26-28. I’ll put the AJC findings on Jewish opinion for each applicable question in parentheses, for easy comparison. You can see at once that the president’s ratings among Jews are somewhat higher than the general American population. Somewhat. Just a smidgeon.
Overall job approval 47% (57). .
“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling…?” (Approve / Disapprove) Healthcare policy 42 / 54 (50/48) The economy 37 / 61 (55/42) The situation between Israelis, Palestinians 31 / 52 (54/32)
I’ll be looking more closely at the survey in my Good Fences column next week. Perhaps we’ll find some tasty cherries. Look for it online on Wednesday evening, April 14.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).