AJC Survey Reveals Link between American Jewish Attitudes and 2012 Election

April 30, 2012 – New York – A new AJC survey of American Jews shows President Obama would win a majority of the Jewish vote in a contest against Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. Obama would gain 61 percent and Romney 28 percent, with 11 percent undecided. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008.

The national survey reveals certain indicators of Jewish voting behavior. Probed for the first time, for example, is the link between religious activity (based on frequency of synagogue attendance) and voting behavior. Among the 14 percent of American Jews who attend religious services one or more times per week, 52 percent would vote for Obama and 34 percent for Romney. By comparison, 67 percent of those who never attend religious services – 31 percent of respondents – would vote for Obama, while 21 percent would vote for Romney.

The survey also found that more Jewish women (67 percent) than men (55 percent) would vote for Obama, while Romney is favored by 34 percent of American Jewish men and 22 percent of women.

The AJC survey explored current American Jewish thinking on issues in the U.S. presidential campaign, as well as Jewish identity and attachment to Israel.

“Our survey confirms a politically active, and yet diverse, American Jewish community that has strong views on the pressing issues confronting the United States,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Asked for the most important issues in deciding their vote, 80 percent of American Jews cite the economy, 57 percent health care, 26 percent national security and 22 percent U.S.-Israel relations.

More than half -- 57 percent -- approve of the way President Obama is handling the economy. Sixty-two percent of those voters who cite the economy as a top issue in the election prefer Obama to Romney, who would win 28 percent of those voters.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of American Jews who cite health care as a top concern would vote for Obama if the election were held today against Romney, while Romney would win 19 percent of their votes.

But among Jews who are more focused on national security concerns or U.S.-Israel relations, only 42 percent would vote for Obama. Forty-four percent of those who cite national security and 45 percent of those who cite U.S.-Israel relations would vote for Romney.

Almost one in five respondents to the survey identify themselves as Republican (19 percent), more than half as Democrat (52 percent), and about one-quarter as Independent (26 percent).

On the current state of U.S.-Israel relations, 58 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the relationship. By comparison, 70 percent approve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations and 28 percent disapprove.

Iran’s nuclear program continues to concern American Jews.
  • 89 percent are concerned about the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, and 11 percent are not concerned.
  • If diplomacy and sanctions fail, 64 percent would support, and 34 percent oppose, U.S. military action against Iran, while 75 percent would support, and 25 percent oppose, Israeli military action.
  • Regardless of how the respondents intend to vote, 60 percent think the Democratic Party is more likely to make the right decision in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. Thirty-seven percent choose the Republican Party.
On the Arab-Israeli peace process, the survey found that 37 percent think that prospects for peace have decreased since a year ago, 7 percent think they have increased, and 55 percent think prospects for peace have stayed the same.

In a series of questions about relations between American Jews and Israel, the survey found that a majority of U.S. Jews – 59 percent – have never visited Israel, 19 percent visited once, and 21 percent have visited two or more times.

Among those American Jews who have never visited Israel, 48 percent say they have never had the opportunity to go, 32 percent say it is too expensive, 13 percent say they are afraid to go, and 31 percent say they are not interested.

And, nearly nine out of ten (87 percent) of those Jews who never attend religious services have never been to Israel, while only 26 percent of religiously active American Jews (those who attend services at least once a week) have not traveled to Israel.

At the same time, 71 percent of respondents believe that caring about Israel is a very important part of being a Jew.

The AJC survey of 1,074 American Jews was conducted by Knowledge Networks, March 14 – 27, 2012, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent. The full survey, selected highlights and methodology are available at www.ajc.org.
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