What a difference a year can make in time and perspective: in our new survey for the Israel Factor, Barack Obama – for the first time – is leading over Romney.
This change was a long time coming. In May 2012 they were almost tied, in July and June the two were tied. Take a look at Obama’s and Romney’s path to August 2012:
So what happened in the past month to put Obama slightly ahead? Two things:
A. Romney’s visit to Israel, probably more acceptable to most Israelis than to our panel, was somewhat problematic in the mainstream expert view. Romney was playing politics – while the expert prefer policy driven statements, comments and actions. We asked one panelist why his vote for Obama went down from 9 to 8, and the visit was the reason. The “Palestinian culture” statement, and generally, the “turning of Israel into a wedge issue” didn’t make this panelist (who still favors Romney over Obama) happy.
B. Obama’s seemingly tough position on the Iranian issue is making a difference. We’ve argued many times that Iran is the most revealing issue on which many Israelis – our panel included – look at the candidates and how “good” they are on Israel. We dedicated a long question to Iran in this survey, supplying the panel with statements to rank from totally disagree (1) to totally agree (10). Look at these two statements and how the panel rated them:
Obama will use force against Iran if diplomacy doesn’t work
If elected, Romney will use force against Iran if diplomacy doesn’t work
In other words: disregarding Romney’s implied claim that he will be tougher than Obama on Iran – that he is more likely to use force against Tehran’s leaders – the panel ranks Obama higher on this specific issue of using force. The panel sees in Obama the determination to stop Iran by all available means. And while the difference between Obama and Romney on this question is not great, it even gives Obama a little more credit than it does Romney.
As you know, we don’t reveal the way each panelist votes on specific questions, but counting the panelists, I can share another interesting fact: Four panelists gave Obama higher marks on this question – only two panelists gave Romney the edge (the rest ranked them identically). Also note that no panelist gave Obama lower than a score of 5 on this question. No panelist thinks there’s no chance in the world that Obama would use force against Iran.
Interesting, is it not? I’m sure many readers aren’t going to agree with our panel – and even more certain that many Israelis would not agree with it either. But we’re doing a panel survey, not a public opinion poll. Next week, I’ll share with you some of the reasons why our panelists have changed their rankings.