Obama carried about 74 percent of Jewish voters — down 3 percentage points compared to Democrat John Kerry’s percentage in 2004 — according to a new study from the nonpartisan Solomon Project.
The report underscores what Jewish voters and experts say in interviews: The Jewish community is more liberal and Democratic-leaning than the electorate at large. And it’s not changing much. The study showed that Jewish support for Democratic candidates has remained strong in the past two decades.
Another potential problem for Romney is that he might not be not well-liked, even by those who will cast ballots for him.
Isaac Choeff, a 60-year-old independent voter from Century Village, said he’d vote for Romney simply because he dislikes Obama so much.
“Romney’s bad, but what’s worse is Obama’s anti-American attitude,” said Choeff. Asked about whether the Jewish vote will favor Romney more or Obama less, Choeff said it will probably remain the same.
“I fear it won’t change,” Choeff said. “But it could happen this year, I hope, from what I’ve been reading.”
One third-party group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, wants to drive the message home on television. It recently announced a $6.5 million ad campaign, with $1.6 million reserved in Florida in September.
Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami professor who studies Jewish demographics, said Republicans haven’t succeeded in persuading Jewish voters that a Democratic candidate’s position on Israel is a liability.
Recently, for instance, Republicans began criticizing Obama for saying that the pre-1967 borders of Israel should be a starting point for negotiating a peace with the Palestinians. Sheskin, dismissed the criticism, noting that the United States has essentially had the same position since President Nixon held office.
Yet Obama did have stumbles with Jewish voters, said Sheskin, a registered Democrat. Obama visited Cairo but has yet to visit Israel, a sore spot for some Jewish voters. And the president’s negotiating position on a peace accord made the talks bog down, Sheskin said.
Israel isn’t the most important issue to American Jewish voters, according to a survey by Sheskin. In 2008, Jewish voters ranked Israel as 8th out of 15 priorities behind the economy, healthcare, gas prices, education and taxes.
Florida has roughly 640,000 Jews, roughly 550,000 of whom live in the liberal-leaning counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Republicans and Romney don’t believe they can win the Jewish vote outright, but they hope to peel some of the reliably Democratic voters away from the President.
Jewish voters in Florida weren’t surveyed in 2008 exit polls, but if Obama received the same level of support from Florida Jews as he did from those nationally, he could have received about 362,000 Jewish votes to McCain’s 136,000, assuming Jews accounted for about 6 percent of the electorate.
The victory margin with Jewish voters could have accounted for 90 percent of Obama’s overall 236,000-vote margin in Florida, a must-win state for Republicans.
A new Gallup survey this week showed Obama leading Romney 68-25 percent among Jewish voters overall, which Republicans pointed out is below Obama’s 2008 victory margin. But Democrats said that, once the undecided voters are removed from the poll, Obama gets 73 percent support.
Gallup analysts have noted that Obama’s loss of Jewish support mirrors trends in the electorate at large, indicating that the Jewish community at large isn’t upset with him any more than average voters.
“Jews are people, too,” chuckled Mark S. Mellman, author of the Solomon Project study.
Some Jewish voters say there is no good choice on the ballot and they won’t vote for either candidate. In the zero-sum game of politics, that’s a vote for Romney.
“I’m writing myself in as a write-in candidate,” said Marvin Mizrahi, a 69-year-old Century Village independent voter.
“They’re both bad.”