AJC Poll: Jews Remain Centrist

Friday, October 30, 2009

The poll describes a Jewish community capable of filtering out the static generated by extremists on both sides and coming to independent, reasoned conclusions.

Listen to the pundits, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion U.S.-Israel relations are on the rocks. But American Jews don’t buy that — despite the efforts by some to stir up conflict.

According to this week’s American Jewish Committee Survey of American Jewish Public Opinion, a vast majority of Jews — 81 percent — say relations between the allies are positive. But that doesn’t imply blind acceptance of every element of President Barack Obama’s evolving Middle East policy; 32 percent said they disapprove of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S. -Israel relations, with a thin 54 percent approving.

As usual, the AJC poll reveals a pattern of nuance and moderation in our community. Jews remain divided on the issue of
Jewish settlements, but 51 percent disagree with Obama’s call for a stop to all new Israeli settlement construction.

Support for Palestinian statehood crept up three points since 2007, though, to 49 percent. And there was a significant uptick in those who believe the time will come when Israel and its Arab neighbors will be able to settle their differences and live in peace, up to 43 percent from 37 percent the last time the question was asked.

On one question the numbers describe significant change: 56 percent of those polled would support U.S. military action against Iran, compared to only 35 percent in 2007, reflecting a growing sense of urgency in our community — and perhaps growing doubt that non-military solutions, including negotiations and sanctions, will work.

The numbers are far from comprehensive, but they point to a Jewish electorate that remains willing to give Washington a chance to work for Israeli-Palestinian peace and to deal with an increasingly dangerous Iran — but which isn’t offering any blank checks.

And the poll describes a Jewish community capable of filtering out the static generated by extremists on both sides and coming to independent, reasoned conclusions. Increasingly, it’s the extremes that dominate the news when it comes to U.S.-Israel relations, but the evidence suggests the people who count — ordinary Jewish voters — have their feet firmly planted in the non-ideological center.

Finally, there is one disturbing trend that deserves immediate attention. The proportion of Jews who say they feel distant from Israel continues to creep up, to almost one-third.

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