As many Jewish voters approve of President Obama’s performance as disapprove in an American Jewish Committee poll that shows much disappointment stems from his handling of the economy.
The AJC’s annual poll released Monday showed 45 percent of voters approved of Obama as opposed to 48 percent disapproving, a statistical dead heat and a substantial drop from the 57 percent who approved of his performance in the 2010 AJC survey.
When respondents were asked about areas of performance, the disparity is widest on the economy, with 59.5 percent disapproving and 39.5 percent approving.
“They continue to be grumpy about the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, they’re pessimistic about the prospects of solving the Iran problem,” said David Harris, AJC’s director, “but they’re grumpiest about the economy.”
On foreign policy, there is a dead heat: 46.8 percent approving of Obama’s performance versus 48.3 percent disapproving.
There was a drop in perceptions of how Obama handled the U.S.-Israel relationship, with 53 percent disapproving and 40 percent approving this year as opposed to 45 percent disapproving and 49 percent approving last year.
There was also a drop in how voters perceived Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the relationship, from 62 percent approving and 27 percent disapproving last year to 54 percent approving and 32 percent disapproving this year.
Those drops were also reflected in the slight drop in Americans’ view of the overall U.S.-Israel relationship, with 63 percent characterizing it as positive this year, down from 68 percent last year.
Asked to match Obama against Republican candidates, respondents favored him over all in the field, but he performed least well against Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and a perceived moderate.
Romney garnered the backing of 32.1 percent of respondents as opposed to Obama’s 50.3 percent.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry earned the favor of 24.5 percent of respondents and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) got 19.1 percent, both statistically commensurate with the 22 percent of the Jewish vote Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) earned in the 2008 presidential race.
Perry and Bachmann are in a fierce competition for the approval of the Republican Party’s more conservative wing, and Harris said those numbers suggested a warning for the party’s efforts to eat into the Jewish community’s traditional backing for Democrats.
“For the Republicans, the message is, you could win more votes in 2012 but it’s not a given and there is a quite a spread between the candidate we view as most moderate and the ones who who are more conservative,” he said.
The big chunks of undecided respondents in the match-ups suggest a lesson for Democrats as well, he said.
“You still have the solid support of Jewish voters, but don’t take it for granted,” he said. “You have to make your case better than you have until now.”
Synovate carried out the poll for AJC between Sept. 6 and 21, reaching 800 respondents by phone.