A new survey conducted by American Jewish Committee (AJC) earlier this month shows that 69 percent of Jewish voters in Florida are backing President Barack Obama; 25 percent of respondents said they would support Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney.
The results, which are drawn from AJC’s not-yet-released national poll, confirm a great deal of conventional wisdom. They show that Jewish Democrats vastly outnumber Jewish Republicans, that Florida Jews are going to be casting their votes primarily based on the candidates’ positions on domestic issues like the economy and health care, and that they overwhelmingly trust Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to social issues including abortion rights and the separation of church and state.
The survey also found that 49 percent of respondents strongly disapproved of Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.) as his running mate, compared to 11 percent who strongly disapproved of Vice President Joe Biden.
But how much to infer from the survey’s most closely watched finding – that Obama would win Florida’s Jews 69 - 25 percent if the election had been held in early September – is hard to tell.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) put out a press release on Thursday stating that the poll “Hints at Trouble for Obama in Jewish Community.”
On the blog of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), meanwhile, the poll was interpreted as showing that the President was “Clearly Ahead Among Florida Jews.”
In dispute here isn’t whether Obama will win among Florida Jews, but how close he’ll be able to come to his 2008 result, when he took 78 percent of Jewish votes nationwide.
“We have seen ample evidence in many recent polls that Pres. Obama will have difficulty reaching the same level of Jewish support that he received in 2008,” Matt Brooks, executive director of RJC, said in the press release, which described the AJC poll as showing the President “would receive just 69 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida.”
The NJDC blog post, which went live before the RJC’s press release was distributed, anticipated and attempted to rebut the RJC’s line of argument.
Five percent of the Florida Jewish voters in the AJC survey were undecided on whom to support in the Presidential contest, leading the NJDC blogger to conclude that since “there are (generally) no undecided voters on Eelction Day,” a better number to use would be the poll’s result without the undecided voters. Such a sample yields an Obama win by a margin of 73-26 percent among Florida Jews.
Drawn from a sample of 254 Jewish voters in this hotly contested swing state, the AJC survey was circulated without one crucial piece of information: its margin of error. Without that piece of data, it’s hard to say how much meaning to attribute to the apparent nine-point (or six-point, if the NJDC’s argument is convincing) drop from Obama’s 2008 result.
Thanks to $6.5 million from wealthy Jewish Republicans, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the RJC is making a strong push for Jewish votes in Florida, one of a few key swing states that could decide the election.
But even if the RJC’s effort can help peel off some number of Jewish voters who supported Obama in 2008, a number of recent polls show Obama leading Romney nationally by margins ranging between 1 and 8 points.