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WASHINGTON, DC — A large majority of American Jewish voters oppose President Trump, oppose his abandonment of the Iran nuclear agreement and are concerned that his rhetoric and actions at home are emboldening anti-Semitism on the far right, according to a new poll.
The Election Day poll, conducted by GBA Strategies and commissioned by J Street, showed that in the aftermath of the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, 72 percent of American Jewish voters state that President Trump’s comments and policies were either “very” or “somewhat” responsible for inspiring the attack. A majority made clear that they have been more concerned with anti-Semitism (81 percent), racism (79 percent) and right-wing extremism (79 percent) since the president took office.
“American Jews do not like Trump’s policies, and they intensely dislike this President, whose rhetoric on race and immigration drives Jews even further away from Republicans”, said pollster Jim Gerstein. “The Trump presidency has led Jews to vote even more Democratic than at any time since 2010.”
American Jewish voters strongly disapprove of President Trump (18 percent favorable/74 percent unfavorable). Election Day saw Jewish voters overwhelmingly back Democratic congressional candidates (76 percent) over Republicans (19 percent).
The president is also completely out of step with American Jews on key foreign policy issues. The poll found that 71 percent of Jewish voters support the Iran nuclear agreement, a notable increase of 8 percent from Election Night 2016. 67 percent oppose Trump’s abandonment of the agreement. The president’s refusal to back the two-state solution is also deeply out of step with the Jewish community. When presented with a detailed explanation of its likely contours, 78 percent support such an agreement, a significant increase from 2016 (70 percent). 75 percent want the US to play an active role in helping to resolve the conflict.
The results show that advertising against congressional candidates who supported the Iran agreement backfired against Republicans. Among those who saw Republican campaign ads attacking Democratic candidates for supporting the agreement, 49 percent said it made them more likely to support the Democrat, compared to just 29 percent who were more likely to support the Republican.
“It’s clear that the vast majority of American Jews stand behind strong diplomacy, and oppose President Trump’s reckless foreign policy in the Middle East,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “At home, our community fears that Trump and his supporters’ toxic politics of xenophobia and white nationalism are a major threat to the Jewish people and to vulnerable minorities across our country.”
American Jews express increasingly positive feelings for Israel alongside concern about Israeli government policies and falling support for Prime Minister Netanyahu. 65 percent say that they feel very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel, while an overwhelming 84 percent believe that someone can be both pro-Israel and critical of Israeli government policies.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s favorability with American Jews has fallen to +3, a continued, precipitous decline from +30 in 2014 and +12 in 2016. With regard to the Israeli government’s actions in the West Bank, 76 percent believe that Israel should suspend or restrict settlement construction to certain areas. 49 percent support restriction outside the core settlement blocs and 27 percent support suspension of all settlements construction across the West Bank.
“American Jews are concerned by the direction in which Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking Israel and the ways in which his pro-settler policies are endangering Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people,” Ben-Ami said. “They continue to strongly support a two-state solution, and they want to see bold US leadership to help put the parties back on the path to peace.”
As in past elections, American Jewish voters ranked domestic concerns as top priorities in deciding how to cast their ballots. Nationally, American Jewish voters cite healthcare (43 percent), gun violence (28 percent), Social Security and Medicare (21 percent) and the economy (19 percent) as being among their top two issues. Only 4 percent listed Israel among their top voting issues, a decline from 9 percent in 2016.
“For Jewish voters, Israel is a threshold voting issue; once candidates demonstrate that they are supportive of Israel, voters move on to focus on other issues that more directly impact their daily lives,” said Gerstein.
GBA Strategies designed the questionnaire for this national survey of American Jews who voted in the 2018 general election. The survey was conducted November 6, 2018, and included a base sample of 903 self-identified Jewish voters. The base sample is subject to a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. GBA Strategies contracted the research company Mountain West Research Center to administer the national survey by email invitation to its web-based panel, which is regularly updated and consists of over 14 million Americans.
GBA Strategies also conducted an oversample of 236 Millennials (for a total of 436 Millennial interviews). Among the oversample, 136 interviews were conducted by the web-based panel. An additional 100 Millennial interviews were conducted by landline and cell phones, calling a random sample of registered voters 18-34 years-old with distinctive Jewish names. Due to time constraints, the phone survey did not include all the questions as the web-panel. The findings from this oversample will be released separately in the coming week.
In both the web-panel and telephone samples, respondents were asked at the beginning of the survey whether they consider themselves Jewish, using the same question wording as the 2013 Pew Research Center’s study, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.”