The RJC conducted phone surveys among Jewish voters on election night, after the polls had closed, to get a feel for how the Jewish community voted this year and whether Israel was an important issue for Jewish voters.
We did three surveys: a 1000-person sample national poll of Jewish voters; a 600-person sample poll of Jewish voters in Florida; and a 600-person sample poll of Jewish voters in Ohio. The full summary and cross tab data from all three polls can be found at the links at the end of this article.
The Obama-Romney race in the Jewish community
In the national RJC poll, which had a margin of error of +/- 3%, we found that 31.6% of Jewish voters chose Mitt Romney and 60.8% chose Barack Obama. (Of the remainder, 1.4% chose a third party candidate and 6.2 % refused to say how they voted.) This number for Jewish support of Romney is in keeping with national media exit polls, which showed Romney getting about 31% of the Jewish vote and Obama getting 69%, a 9-point drop from the 78% of the Jewish vote that Obama received in 2008.
That 32% support for Romney represents a 10-point gain, or a nearly 50% increase in Jewish support, from the 22% that John McCain received in 2008.
An historical view
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, “Republicans significantly moved the needle in the Jewish community, in a result that was consistent with what we’ve been saying for some time about the GOP making inroads in the Jewish community. That trend continues to grow. In fact, the 10-point gain this year is the largest such gain for Republicans since 1972.”
Brooks also noted that the historical average of Jewish support for Republican presidential candidates since 1920 has been 23.5% and Romney did considerably better than that benchmark.
Jews and other groups
In a conference call with journalists to discuss the RJC poll results, former White House Press Secretary and current CNN contributor Ari Fleischer made the following points:
• The Republicans saw a decline among other communities, such as Latin voters and younger voters, which means the rise in Jewish support for the GOP presidential candidate in key swing states helped keep the GOP competitive in a tough race.
• The RJC poll results show a legitimate expression of buyer’s remorse on the part of Jewish voters. Romney won a higher percentage of the Jewish vote, against a sitting President, than George W. Bush, an acknowledged friend of Israel, won in 2004. (Romney won 32% this year, Bush won 24% in 2004.)
• President Obama carried the election, but he lost about 3 points overall compared to his popular vote tally in 2008, and he lost a few points each among Blacks and young voters, while losing 9 points among Jewish voters.
Role of Israel in voter decisions
Another very noteworthy point from the RJC polls: Israel was an important element in Jewish voter choices this year. Our survey shows that 76.5% of respondents said that Israel was “somewhat important” or “very important” in determining their vote.
This confirmed the RJC’s decision to make Israel, along with the economy, a focal point of our outreach efforts. It played a prominent, but not exclusive, role in our TV ads and mailers.
While we are disappointed by the election results, we are encouraged by the rise in Jewish support for the GOP.
The 2012 election marks another data point in the continuing trend of greater Jewish support for the GOP over time. The RJC will continue to educate our community and to advocate in the Jewish community for Republican ideas and policies. We see the rising numbers of Jewish support for Republicans as an example to other Republican constituencies of what is possible with hard work and a meaningful message. If the GOP makes similar gains among Black, Latino, and young voters in future years, Republicans will have strong electoral victories to celebrate.
RJC Exit Poll Results (PDF files)