In the 2008 election Barack Obama received approximately 78% of the Jewish vote (actually 75-80% depending on whose numbers you choose). During the past few months there has been considerable speculation that the traditionally Democratic community will be less supportive of the President next November than they were in 2008. This is based according to many sources on the concern that Jews have about Obama’s commitment to stand by Israel as it confronts the Iranian nuclear threat.
While there undoubtedly are Jews who have accepted the analysis promoted largely by the Netanyahu Government concerning its anxiety about the President, the hard nose political question is how much of an impact will this have on overall Jewish support for Obama. The most critical question for the Obama campaign will be how this vote will break out in key swing states with sizeable Jewish populations such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The Obama team has tended to believe that Jews have remained largely liberal Democrats and the President can assume that he will still receive no less than 65% and in all likelihood over 70% of the Jewish vote in November. This is largely based on the assumption that the drift away from the Democratic Party and the President has been in the hard-line, pro-Israel community as well as within the activist Orthodox community. Recently, in a private conversation a challenge was made to this last thesis by a reform Jewish leader who asked why the assumption continues to exist that Reform and Conservative Jews have remained as strongly liberal Democrats as they have even been, with the drift away largely in the Orthodox community. It was suggested that there was a genuine swing even among non-Orthodox Jews away from the Democratic Party, largely based not on Israel issues, but on economic concerns and the social agenda.
One will not know until we unravel the exit polls next fall as to how far the Jewish community might have drifted and /or whether the Jewish community voted less for Obama than previously; if so for what reasons and among which segments of the Jewish community. It will also be very important to ascertain whether the Israel question is or is not the same driving force within the non-Orthodox segments of the community as among the Orthodox.