I asked them to take a wild guess, and it is indeed wild to try and predict what Jewish voters will do come November. One panelist asked to be released from the guessing game. One panelist (Prof. Fred Lazin) made sure to remind me that the choice of the Vice Presidential nominee can make a difference in the way Jewish voters behave (Sarah Palin didn’t much help McCain with Jewish voters, although - as I’ve demonstrated here - “most Jewish voters jumped on the Obama bandwagon way before Palin was nominated”). A Clinton might help Obama, an ultra-conservative GOP nominee might hurt Romney (assuming that he is the candidate). All in all, the prediction presented here is more a way of taking the pulse of the panel and the way it feels about Jewish American political moods, than an attempt to accurately forecast the final outcome of the 2012 Jewish vote.
We wanted the panelists to first see what happened both in Iowa and New Hampshire, and only then respond to our second survey of this election year (the first survey is here, if you’re not yet familiar with The Israel Factor and would like to know more about it, read this). So The Israel Factor panel was answering this survey in the days following the New Hampshire primaries. Clearly, all the panelists now understand that Mitt Romney is the most likely nominee of the Republican Party, and in this survey, as we’ve seen in previous surveys since 2006, the panel still believes that from an Israeli perspective, a Romney presidency would be better than a second Obama term.
Now let’s turn to the question of the Jewish vote.
Percentage of voters for the GOP nominee
Obama vs. Romney
Obama vs. Gingrich
Obama vs. Ron Paul
We asked the panel to envision three possible scenarios: An Obama vs. Romney race, a much less likely Obama vs. Gingrich race, and the very unlikely Obama vs. Paul race. For each of these possible races we’ve asked the panel: “Taking a wild guess, what would you say will be the percentage of Jewish voters voting for the Republican nominee in each of the following cases?”
Predictably, the Obama-Paul race is not really a match worthy of much attention. Our panel believes that even the fairly conservative section of the American Jewish community would be unenthusiastic about candidate Paul. Some panelists believe Paul would get as low as 2% of the Jewish vote, and some put him closer to the traditional 20-25% of Jews voting for the GOP nominee (as high as 16%). While the panel in general treats Paul as the candidate with no real chance of gaining among Jewish voters, that is a significant difference between the panelists who see Paul as the untouchable candidate for almost all Jewish voters, and those believing that there’s still a fair number of hard-core Jewish conservatives who would basically vote for any GOP nominee over Obama.
The more interesting comparison though is the one between Romney and Gingrich. Interesting because our panel seems to be of two possible minds: Some panelists believe that Romney has better chance with Jewish voters because of his perceived “moderation” (compared to other GOP candidates), while other panelists believe that Gingrich’s image as the more (maybe most) vigorous supporter of Israel among the group of candidates should give him the edge with Jewish voters.
Thus, the average number for the two candidates is not much different, but the panel is split. Four panelists believe that Romney would fare better with Jewish voters, three believe it is Gingrich who has the edge, and one believes the two will do exactly the same.
As for the percentage predicted here, more than 30% should be considered an achievement. Yes, it is possible that Obama’s numbers will decline among all groups, and not just Jewish supporters. Nevertheless, for a Republican to break the 30% ceiling some 30 years after Ronald Reagan might be a sign that A. Jewish Americans are really becoming more conservative (as some have argued), or B. That Obama’s policies (on Israel and other matters) were truly hurting the Democratic ticket with one of the most staunchly Democratic groups in America.
Our panel, though, is not unanimously supportive of the 30% plus theory. The average of the two candidates (34.12% for Romney and 31.25% for Gingrich) is, well, just an average. Some panelists believe that Romney would do as badly as 20% and that Gingrich would do as badly as 21% with Jewish voters, while others believe that they have a chance to do as well as 50% (I’m skeptical, but in this project I’m merely the moderator). One should note that most of the panel does believe that Jewish support for Obama is about to decline, and that the 78% he is believed to have gotten back in 2008 will not be repeated (by the way, some experts that I tend to trust believe that his support was probably lower, closer to 75%).
And one paragraph about Jon Huntsman:
Jon Huntsman was quitting the race just as we were completing our survey. His final rank with our panel is pretty good: 6.55. The Israel Factor panel grew to like Huntsman’s candidacy. In this month’s survey he is fourth among all candidates. In fact, he was fourth among the candidates a month ago (in the December 2011 survey, Obama had 6.78 and Huntsman had 6.37). That he is doing so well with the panel is no big surprise, considering our panel’s centrist streak.
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