American Jews continue to back President Obama, US engagement in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011

CONTACT: Jessica Rosenblum, J Street Director of Media Relations, office (202) 448.1600 or cell (202) 279.0005. Email: Jessica [at] jstreet [dot] org


Washington—Support for both President Barack Obama and for US leadership to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains robust among American Jews, according to a new poll.

The poll, released today by J Street—the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement — found that the President’s job approval rating (60 percent) remains unchanged since the organization’s last national poll in November 2010. These findings mirror a June 2011 Gallup poll that gave the President a 60 percent job approval rating among Jews. Gallup polls over the past two and a half years have consistently found that Jewish support for President Obama is 14 percentage points higher than that of the general population.

In head-to-head match-ups with leading Republican candidates Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney, Obama gets 67 percent and 63 percent of the vote, respectively. These results are comparable to the results from the July 2008 J Street survey, which showed Obama leading John McCain 62 to 32 percent among Jews in an election he ultimately won with 78% of the Jewish vote. President Obama’s lead this early in the run-up to the presidential race likely understates his expected vote from American Jews in the 2012 election. In pre-election polls, voters tend to show lower levels of support for their party’s candidates than on Election Day. When undecided voters are allocated based on party identification, the “simulated vote” shows Obama beating Romney 70 to 27 percent and Bachmann by a margin of 73 to 23 percent, according to this new survey.

The survey reveals that American Jews strongly oppose conservative alternatives to President Obama and the Democratic Party. Prominent figures and institutions associated with conservative American politics have almost no traction among American Jews. Favorable views of Glenn Beck among American Jews surveyed stands at 10 percent, versus 66 percent with an unfavorable view; the Tea Party movement is viewed favorably by 12 percent, versus 74 percent unfavorable; the Republican Party is viewed favorably by 18 percent of American Jews, with 67 percent having an unfavorable view.

Despite lower rates of approval for the President’s handling of the economy (51 percent) and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (44 percent), overall Jewish support for the President remains strong.

Most Jewish contributors (82 percent) to the 2008 Obama campaign will continue to contribute to the 2012 reelection campaign. It is clear that Jewish political contributors are not inclined to change their donation behavior – regardless of their party allegiance – and the only difference between Republican and Democratic Jewish donors is that many more Jews report contributing to Obama (16 percent) than McCain (4 percent) in 2008, reflecting the nearly 4-to-1 vote margin cited in the 2008 exit polls.

“In the face of a turbulent political and financial environment across America, Jewish support for President Obama is remarkable for its strength and consistency. The survey results provide a solid reminder of the difference between the views expressed by high profile critics of the President and the views of most American Jews, ” said pollster Jim Gerstein, a principal of Gerstein | Bocian | Agne Strategies, who designed the poll.

By a margin of nearly 5-to-1, American Jews back an active US role in resolving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Sixty-seven percent support such engagement even if it means the United States publicly stating its disagreements with both the Israelis and the Arabs.

”What is clear is that the President will find strong backing among American Jews for bold and decisive diplomatic leadership to facilitate a two-state resolution,” said J Street founder and President Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Seventy percent support the United States proactively putting forth a peace plan that proposes border and security arrangements and 57 percent back the specific parameters of a two-state solution outlined during the administrations of Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. Support for the details of this comprehensive peace plan is noteworthy given the specific mention of language that recently raised an uproar among many Jewish organizational leaders – that is, establishing borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps – and other controversial elements such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

As the anticipated U.N. vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood approaches, Jewish public opinion is still forming. Thirty-four percent of Jews want America to vote for recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the UN, while nearly half (47 percent) want the United States to vote against recognition and 18 percent are undecided. The most notable finding about American Jews and the anticipated UN vote is the major difference between younger and older generations. Younger Jews split evenly (41 percent think the U.S. should vote for recognition, 39 percent think the U.S. should vote against) and older Jews oppose recognition (31 percent think the U.S. should vote for recognition, 51 percent think the U.S. should vote against).

American Jews also expressed strong support for creating and maintaining broadly inclusive community institutions. Seventy-nine percent believe that local Jewish federations and JCCs should allow the participation of organizations that publicly criticize the Israeli government, while 77 percent support the inclusion of J Street by name.

Gerstein | Bocian | Agne Strategies designed the questionnaire for this survey of 800 self-identified adult American Jews, conducted July 7-12, 2011. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent; the margin of error in the split samples is +/- 4.9 percent. GBA Strategies contracted the research company Mountain West Research Center and Opinion Outpost to administer the survey by email invitation to its web-based panel, which is regularly updated and consists of nearly 900,000 Americans.

For the full survey results, including crosstabs and demographics, visit