August 19, 2012 | 9:32 am
The publication of our August Israel Factor survey – in which Obama, for the first time, was ranked higher than Romney – made some waves. It was quoted in Politico and JTA, and as expected irked some guardians of the old order (a bit about these later).
As I promised last week, I’m going to try and give you some more sense of how and why Obama pulled ahead. First of all, we asked a couple of panelists to explain why their vote was changed. One panelist, who gave Romney a better mark in August than he did in July, told us: “I have more confidence in Romney than in Obama that he will do something about Iran”.
As you could see last week, this panelist was not alone, but most of the panel thought otherwise: namely, that Obama is more likely to do something about Iran. A panelist who raised Obama’s score in August gave us this rationale: “I compared him to the alternative, which is why his score went up in general”. In other words: he didn’t find Romney attractive enough to merit a much higher mark than Obama.
Take a look at how our panel ranked Obama compared to Romney in August (the numbers reflect Obama’s score, when Romney’s score from the same person is subtracted):
Translation: Five panelists ranked Romney higher than Obama. Just three ranked Obama higher than Romney, and two ranked them equally. However, those ranking Obama higher were more inclined to rank him much higher than those ranking Romney higher than Obama.
Now see the July ranking of Obama compared to Romney:
Translation: In the July survey, three panelists (the same ones) ranked Obama higher. And they were almost as enthusiastic about him then as they were in August. In fact, in August more panelists tended to prefer Romney – five instead of four. But the advantage they see in him is shrinking a little, hence the shift from equal ranking to both candidates (as we had in both June and July) to a small Obama advantage.
Obama’s advantage? Yes in the final score, but not in the number of panelists preferring him over Romney.
Now let me turn my attention – and I’ll do it briefly – to all those commentators and readers who were unhappy with the panel’s scoring. There were a couple such people, mocking the panel, or the moderator of the panel (that would be me), calling us names (“clown”, “lefty radicals” etc). I don’t much care about being called names. Caroline Glick, the charismatic (if humorless) Jerusalem Post columnist observed: “Surprise, surprise, the closer we get to the us presidential election, the closer Rosner comes to endorsing Obama for reelection while masking his personal opinion as ‘expert’ opinion”.
I really don’t want to spend too much time on angry readers. But being called a “radical leftist” and a “J Street supporter” is kind of new to me (I’m usually called a “neocon” or “right of center” or “partisan, AIPAC-oriented”), but I’m going to try and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Just three quick comments:
1. The panel is independent. I don’t tell its members how to vote. And we never pretended it to be representative of Israeli public opinion (Israelis, as I have written on numerous occasions, would much rather have a Romney presidency). In fact, we were quite honest about it being a centrist panel. If you want a panel that will cater to your specific ideology, go look someplace else (but wouldn’t it be boring, to always get the score you expect?).
2. The panel doesn’t “endorse” candidates. I do not and will not “endorse” candidates. The Factor is an attempt to give readers a sense of what Israeli experts think (yes, they are experts, check out their resumés). We started this project more than six years ago and it’s still alive and kicking, so I guess some people see some merit in it.
3. I didn’t hear Glick complaining about the panel for the six years it ranked Obama lower than Hillary Clinton, lower than John McCain, lower than Mitt Romney. I didn’t hear her complaining when the Israel Factor was published, for three years out of those six, by the same paper she works for - the Jerusalem Post. Maybe she just didn’t notice the panel for all these years, and suddenly realized what travesty is was. Or maybe it is a coincidence that just when the panel, for the first time, seemed more favorable to Obama she happened to become aware of this project. I’m glad to have finally grabbed her attention.
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