Far-Right Attacks Fail, Backfire in IL-09

October 28, 2010

A new poll of Jewish voters in Illinois’ 9th Congressional District shows Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky with an overwhelming lead over Joel Pollak.  In a congressional race closely watched for attempts to make Israel a wedge issue, this poll shows that attacks on the congresswoman’s pro-Israel credentials have not only failed, but actually backfired.

More on Poll Results

Some Key Findings

  • Jan Schakowsky remains tremendously popular with her Jewish constituents.  Despite the bad political environment facing Democratic incumbents across the country and Joel Pollak spending over $540,000 in his challenge, Schakowsky leads Pollak by a 65-23 margin.  When allocating the undecided voters by party identification, Schakowsky’s lead grows to 71-25.  These results track closely with Schakowsky’s 73 percent vote share in 2008 among the Jews interviewed in this survey.
  • Joel Pollak’s Israel-related attacks on Schakowsky fall flat and even work in her favor.  An overwhelming 74 percent of Jewish voters reported that they did not hear or read about the criticism Schakowsky’s positions on Israel or the criticism made no difference in their vote.  Among the people who were aware of the criticism, 36 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Schakowsky, and 21 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Pollak.
  • The economy dominates the issue environment, and Israel does not play a significant role with Jewish voters.  As is the case among voters around the country – regardless of religious, racial, or ethnic background – the economy is far and away the most important issue in the election (cited by 53 percent as one of their top two issues).  Israel ranks a distant fourth with 14 percent citing it as one of their top two issues, trailing health care (24 percent) and education (21 percent).  Iran is cited by 3 percent, finishing 11th on a list of 13 issues and reflective of its priority on surveys of the national electorate.
  • President Obama demonstrates continued strength with Jewish voters in his home state.  The President’s overall job approval is 67 percent, far exceeding his 43 percent approval rating in Gallup’s national poll conducted during the same period.  Obama’s handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict is considerably lower (49 percent approve / 39 percent disapprove), yet clearly does not affect Jews’ feelings toward the President as reflected in his overall approval and his personal favorability of 67 percent.
  • Despite some reservations about the execution, Jewish voters support President Obama’s policies on the Arab-Israeli conflict.  When asked to describe how they feel about the President’s handling of the conflict, 6-in-10 say they agree with his policies.  It is important to note that this support is divided between those who say they agree with the policy and like the way he is executing it (32 percent) and those who say they agree with the policy but do not like the way he is executing it (27 percent).  Only 29 percent say they disagree with Obama’s policies on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • There is a major gap between the conventional wisdom of Mark Kirk’s standing with Jewish voters and his actual standing with Jewish voters.  Congressman Kirk trails Alexi Giannoulias 56-28 among Jews in Illinois’ 9th CD, which borders Kirk’s home district.  When allocating the undecided voters by party identification his deficit grows to 64-29.  These results are underscored by Kirk’s poor personal favorability (20 percent favorable / 57 percent unfavorable) and the strong opposition that Jewish voters in the district have toward the Republican Party (17 percent favorable / 65 percent unfavorable).