J Street's Valuable New Polls
9:40 AM, Nov 10, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Don't let J Street's attempt to distract from the embarrassing performance of its candidates in the midterms prevent you from taking a serious look at the group's new polls. American Jews were polled statewide in Pennsylvania, in Illinois's 9th district, and nationally (the three can be read here). The pollster was a J Street founder and doesn't have many scruples about results-oriented polling, so take the numbers with a little salt, and certainly ignore J Street's breathless, self-flattering analysis.
Embattled J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami
The numbers show that American Jews may be liberal, but they certainly aren't anti-Israel. Let's look at three numbers in particular -- Obama's approval rate, the Obama vs. Netanyahu favorability rate, and Obama's approval rate on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Obama approval: 67/29
Obama vs. Netanyahu favorable, mean: 64/60
Obama approval on the Israeli-Arab conflict: 49/39, 19 percent strongly approve
Obama approval: 64/31
Obama vs. Netanyahu favorable, mean: 61/62
Obama approval on handling the Israeli-Arab conflict: 53/37, 22 percent strongly approve
Obama approval: 60/40
Obama vs. Netanyahu favorable, mean: 51/49
Obama approval on handling the Israeli-Arab conflict: 53/47, 9 percent strongly approve
The numbers paint a familiar picture of Americans Jews as liberal Democrats, but more importantly – and this is the bad news for J Street – each poll finds that even liberal Jews aren't thrilled with Obama's approach to Israel. In all three polls, Netanyahu's approval rating was almost identical to Obama's, and the number of those who "strongly approve" of the way Obama has handled Israel ranges from 9 to 22 percent – bottom-basement numbers.
This is tough news for J Street, which operates from a basic syllogism about Jewish public opinion in which American Jews, because they are liberal, will support the ambition of some of their fellow liberals to put the screws to Israel.
But what J Street's own polling shows is that the concluding part of this syllogism doesn't hold. American Jews may be liberal, but they're not on board with the left's condemnatory and punitive approach to Israel as exemplified by President Obama. If Jews were, we'd certainly see more than 9 percent of them nationally strongly approving of Obama on the issue.
J Street was formed, as Jeremy Ben-Ami says over and over again, to give voice to what he believes is the vast majority of American Jews whose liberalism is like Ben-Ami's – hostile to Israel. But as J Street has taught us, American Jews approve of the Israeli prime minister more than they approve of Obama's approach to Israel. Therein lies a lesson for J Street on its failure to win over Jews to the cause of pillorying Israel.
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