Jewish Vote Shifted in 2012 — Still Not Enough to Turn Election

Photograph by Kai Nedden/laif/Redux

A Jewish man campaigns for Mitt Romney in New York on Nov. 6, 2012.

Exit polling found Republican Mitt Romney receiving 30 percent of the votes of Jews on Nov. 6, up from 21 percent for Sen. John McCain in 2008.

President Barack Obama’s share declined to 69 percent from 78 percent, according to the surveys done by Edison Media Research for a consortium of news organizations.

The numbers show “a significant erosion of support from 2008,” according to Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which more than tripled its reported campaign spending this year as compared with four years ago in an attempt to peel off Jewish Democratic voters in key swing states.

Fact is, the percentage of Jews supporting Republicans has fluctuated from election to election. President George W. Bush received 25 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004 and 19 percent in 2000, according to exit polls.

The RJC campaigned against Obama in 2008, and the ad campaign this year emphasized what it said was Obama’s less-than-enthusiastic support for Israel, though its ads also talked about the economy.

Democrats said any erosion of support among Jews was similar to those of other voting blocs because of continued concerns over the economy.

“American Jews are first and foremost Americans,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “It wouldn’t be surprising that like other white Americans, their support declined by a couple of points.”

A pollster for J Street, the Democratic-leaning pro-Israel group that favors a two-state solution in the Middle East, said the fact that most Jews still backed Obama demonstrated the futility of a Republican ad campaign focusing on Israel, which is down on the list of concerns for Jewish voters.

“If they really are going to make inroads, they’re going to have to approach this from a differnet perspective,” pollster Jim Gerstein said.

In the end, Harris said, nothing changed.

“It made no difference,” he said. “It did not make a difference in Florida. It did not make a difference in Ohio. The only Jewish problem this president has is there are not more Jews in America. There are precious few demographic groups that could possibly be more pro-Democratic.”

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