November 6, 2012
Things to watch on election night: A Jewish Voter’s Guide
The Obama-Romney Jewish Vote
1. Did the vigorous Republican campaign to peel away Obama's Jewish voters work at all? Did it work with only a little success?
These are questions that are going to be debated for a while primarily because there’s no agreement on the percentage of the Jewish vote for Obama in 2008 – hence there will be no agreement on the percentage of Jewish voters moving away from him and into the Republican column. Recent research argues that Obama’s actual Jewish number in 2008 was 74% - while the 2008 exit polls gave Obama 78% of the Jewish vote. Those responsible for the new research would want you to believe that this is the more serious analysis of the Jewish vote. Republican Jews would want you to believe that this is a spin aimed at making Obama look better when his numbers drop.
In any case, comparing the 2012 exit polls to the latter study is problematic – we’d have to wait for a similar study before we know the actual percentage of Jewish voters. On the other hand, comparing the 2012 exit poll to the 2008 exit poll is also problematic if one believes that the 2008 exit poll was inaccurate. So what should one do? Avoid overstated conclusions if the numbers aren’t overwhelmingly different. If, for example, Obama gets 73% in the exit poll, it doesn’t mean much. It might be a 5% decline in the Obama Jewish vote, but maybe just a 1% drop. If Romney gets 35% of the Jewish vote – that’s significant. Such a number represents a shift even for those who believe that Obama’s true percentage was 74.
2. The Jewish vote is interesting, but not very important when it comes to numbers. The Jewish vote in Florida - and to a lesser extent in Ohio - can be much more important in a tight year. Thus, if the numbers for Obama don’t change much nationally but do change significantly in the places in which every vote counts – that’s significant. In other words: Obama can have the seventy-something percent of the Jewish vote in New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois - and still lose (Jewishly speaking). If the campaign against him in Florida and Ohio achieved its goal, it will be more important than the national numbers of Obama Jewish support.
3. I don’t think we’re going to get an answer to the following questions tonight, but maybe the polls by Jewish political organizations will be able to answer them at some point.
The questions: How did young Jews vote? How did affiliated Jews vote? How did the Orthodox vote? How did inmarried Jews vote? These questions matter, since these are the Jewish sectors that will determine not just the present but also the future of Jewish political affiliation.
Jewish response to the outcome
1. If Obama wins, one should carefully read the congratulatory announcements of Jewish organizations. I’d assume that at least some of them would take the opportunity to hint that a reset of his relations with Netanyahu is a goal he should be considering.
2. If Romney wins, Jewish Republicans will become even more noticeable in Jewish organizations and institutions than they are today, and Jewish liberals will be using this as an excuse to keep away from these organizations and institutions. This, of course, will not be noticed on election night. On election night all we’re going to get is a smirk from one side of the Jewish political spectrum and agonizing from the other.
3. If Obama wins, we’re going to hear a lot about the triumph of “Jewish values”. If Romney wins, we’re going to hear more about the need to reexamine the meaning of “Jewish values”.
1. If you’re a follower of our House Jewish Projection you would probably like to know three things: How many Jewish legislators are going to serve in the next House; how did we do in our projection; is this really a 20-year low – and will it continue?
2. Another interesting question: Are we finally going to see a second Republican Jewish legislator in the House? Two races have the most likely prospects of giving a positive answer to this question. Altschuler vs. Bishop in New York and Frankel vs. Hasner in Florida. Both races have special Jewish significance.
3. Frankel vs. Hasner is also interesting for another reason – it is one of two races in which both candidates are Jewish. Truth is, though, that the more dramatic “Jewish” race is Berman vs. Sherman. One will have to wait a little longer to get the outcome for this one.
4. Our Senate Jewish Projection is not as dramatic as the House projection. But one race we follow that is seen as significant not just Jewishly but also because it has the potential to have real impact on the incoming Senate majority: If Shelley Berkley is able to win her race, the GOP will have no chance of regaining the Senate (if she doesn’t win, GOP chances are still low).
1. American Israelis are going to vote more for Romney and less for Obama, for sure. But the breakdown of the numbers is still interesting, and even more so will be the breakdown of the numbers by states. In other words: if 3,000 Jewish American-Israelis from Ohio are voting for Romney, and Romney is winning Ohio by, let's say, 17,000 votes – then there’s suddenly a story to be written about the “Israeli vote”.
2. I’m interested to see how Israelis are going to react to the outcome of the election. It will be especially interesting if Obama gets a second term. As you can see in our newly created Israeli Opinion on Obama tracker (we will change it to a Romney tracker should he win), the numbers for the president are very low in Israel. I wonder whether this will change if Obama is reelected, just because it might mean Israelis realize that they are stuck with him and better get used to him.
3. I’d like to see Netanyahu congratulate Obama or Romney. With the former, keeping a straight face while he pretends magnanimity; with the latter, keeping a straight face when what he really wants to do is give Obama the finger.
Check out Rosner's new book, The Jewish Vote: Obama vs. Romney / A Jewish Voter's Guide