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April Israel Factor: Romney trumps Obama. But why?

by Shmuel Rosner

April 26, 2012 | 7:19 am

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (Photos: Reuters)

The two Presidential rivals were closer last month, but the April 2012 survey of ‎the Israel Factor (now part of our exclusive J-Meter feature) draws them apart.

‎‎Romney scored 7.22 (out of 10) in March, and is now on 7.5. Obama scored 7.11 ‎last month and is now on 6.9. All in all, Romney was always ahead of Obama in our survey ‎and is still leading on the question we ask every month: Looking ahead for ‎‎2012, please rate the following presidential candidates on scale of 1 (bad for ‎Israel) to 10 (good for Israel). ‎

Photo

It is interesting to ask, though, why the panel thinks Romney is better for Israel ‎than Obama. As you can see from the chart above, Obama is doing today better ‎than he did in the past – it is not his best survey, but in the last year the panel’s ‎approach towards him was generally more positive than in the past. So why ‎would our expert panel still think Romney is the better one for Israel? Why do 5 ‎of the 10 panelists rank Romney higher while only three rank Obama higher ‎‎(the others give the two the same rank)? ‎

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One possible answer to this question might be found in the first question we ask ‎this month (see full statistics here): Please rank the two presidential candidates ‎‎– Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – on the following issues from 1 (totally ‎disagree) to 10 (totally agree).

In two categories our panel give Obama higher marks: Shows good ‎understanding of Middle East affairs (but that probably comes with the ‎experience on the job); can advance the Israeli-Arab peace process (not that anyone ‎really believes the peace process can be advanced at this time). On three ‎categories – two of them are the more important categories – our panel tends to ‎give Romney the upper hand. He “can be trusted to halt Iran’s nuclear program” ‎better than Obama – but not by much. He “knows how to deal and to get along ‎with Israel’s government” – that’s the polite way of saying: he will not fight as ‎much with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Here Romney’s lead is significant and ‎easily understandable, but I think is also insignificant. ‎

The third item on the list is the key to understanding Romney’s lead over Obama ‎in so many Israel Factor surveys: Romney, our panel believes, “is a true friend of ‎Israel” – more so than Obama. Six of our panelists gave Romney the higher ‎mark on this question, and only one gave Obama the higher mark. Call it the gut ‎feeling question, the “true friend” test was always one of the most telling tests for ‎candidates ranked by the Factor. Israelis trusted Presidents Clinton and Bush – ‎opposites in many ways – because both of them easily passed the “true friend” ‎test. Obama, the colder, more inaccessible President never did. ‎

But for some reason, Romney does. He is not the warmest candidate. He is not ‎the most engaging leader. But flip-flop on all other matters aside, on Israel the ‎panel finds him to be consistent, and trustworthy. So what if he doesn’t ‎understand the Middle East – he can learn. So what if he doesn’t have much ‎better chance of stopping Iran – we know he’s going to try. So what if a Romney ‎presidency will not be good for the peace process – Israelis are busy with more ‎important things (Iran). Until Obama surpasses Romney in the “true friend” test, ‎it will be hard for him to be considered “better” on Israel than the Republican ‎candidate. ‎

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