A new survey of U.S. Jewish opinion from the American Jewish Committee echoes many of the findings from the 2012 Jewish Values Survey, including continuing strong Jewish support for President Obama. The AJC survey reported that around 6-in-10 (61%) American Jews said that if the election were held today, they would vote for Obama, compared to 28% who said they would vote for Romney, and 11% who were undecided.
This level of support is nearly identical to the results from the Jewish Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, which found that in a match-up between Obama and a generic Republican candidate, 62% of American Jewish voters would support Obama, vs. 29% who would support the Republican candidate. Morevoer, and perhaps most importantly, the current support for Obama is nearly identical to Jewish support for Obama at a comparable point in the 2008 campaign. In June 2008, Gallup showed Jewish support for Obama at 62% vs. 31% support for McCain. Obama ultimately won 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008.
The AJC survey focused mainly on the 2012 election, asking respondents about the most important issues for their presidential vote. The AJC survey found similar results to the PRRI’s Jewish Values Survey in terms of voting priorities: concerns about the economy were at the top of the list, and concerns about Israel ranked much lower.
For example, PRRI’s Jewish Values Survey found that only 4% of American Jews identified “Israel” as the most important issue driving their vote for their president in the 2012 election. The AJC survey similarly found only 6% saying “U.S.–Israel relations” is the most important issue determining their vote for president. The AJC survey also allowed respondents to pick their second and third most important issues for their 2012 presidential vote, and “U.S.-Israel relations” registered also registered relatively low as an important voting priority on each of those lists (9% and 8% respectively).
A possible source of confusion arises in the way the AJC data aggregates these first, second, and third voting priority choices. AJC rightly reports that the aggregated percent of American Jews who named “U.S.-Israel relations” as one of their top three most important issues for their 2012 vote is 22%. But this aggregated number potentially obscures the fact that “U.S.-Israel relations” consistently ranks far below the top issues of the economy (80%) and health care (57%), and competes with a number of other issues in lower tiers of voting priorities, such as taxes (26%), national security (26%), and social security (22%).
The American Jewish Committee is to be commended for conducting a solid probability sample survey, something difficult to do with small sub-populations. We now have two recent surveys showing very similar strong support for Obama and similar voting priorities among American Jews.
PRRI’s Jewish Values Survey provides an additional window on the underlying religious and communal values that shape American Jews’ political commitments. For example, the 2012 Jewish Values Survey found that at least 8-in-10 American Jews say that pursuing justice (84%) and caring for the widow and the orphan (80%) are somewhat or very important values that inform their political beliefs and activity.
Similarly, when asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46%) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20%) or religious observance (17%). These findings illuminate many of the patterns found in both polls, as well as providing insights not only into American Jews’ political preferences, but their overall worldview.