Wednesday, October 13, 2010

U.S.: Growing Jewish concerns over President Obama's handling of U.S.-Israel relations and the Iran nuclear threat

Growing Jewish concerns over President Obama's handling of U.S.-Israel relations and the Iran nuclear threat are apparent in a just-completed American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, the second national survey of American Jewish opinion conducted this year by the global advocacy organization.

Forty-nine percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of the Obama Administration's handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to the new survey. AJC's earlier survey, conducted in March, found that 55 percent approved and 37 percent disapproved. In AJC's 2009 survey, 54 percent approved, and 32 percent disapproved.

In contrast, the view of how Prime Minister Netanyahu is handling of U.S.-Israel relations has improved. The new survey shows that 62 percent approve, and 27 percent disapprove. In March, 57 percent approved and 30 percent disapproved.

American Jews are somewhat less positive today than seven months ago in characterizing U.S.-Israel relations. While 7 percent answered "very positive" and 61 percent "somewhat positive," in March 10 percent were "very positive" and 63 percent "somewhat positive." And, in 2009, 11 percent were "very positive" and 70 percent said "somewhat positive."

Conducted annually since 1990, AJC's surveys often are cited as the most authoritative barometer of American Jewish opinion on a range of issues. This was the first time two surveys were commissioned in the same calendar year. The full surveys are available at

"Most disturbing in our survey's findings is the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation's top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Our surveys are an important means for Jews to channel their most pressing concerns to elected officials and the American public."

On Iran, American Jewish confidence in the president's approach continues to dip. Only 43 percent approve of the Obama administration's handling of the Iran nuclear issue, while 46 percent disapprove. In March, 47 percent approved and 42 percent disapproved. In 2009, 49 percent approved and 35 percent disapproved.

Uneasiness over Iran's quest for nuclear weapons capacity is reflected in the growing numbers who doubt the current strategy of sanctions and diplomacy will stop Iran.

Among U.S. Jews, 72 percent believe there is "little" or "no" chance that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while 23 percent believe these approaches do have a chance. In March, 68 percent said there was "little" or "no" chance, and 32 percent said there is a chance they will succeed.

Support for the military option, if the sanctions and diplomacy strategy fails, continues to rise, with 59 percent supporting, and 35 percent opposing, U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In March, 53 percent supported, and 42 percent opposed, possible American military action.

Those who would support Israeli military action increased to 70 percent, while 26 percent oppose. In March, 62 percent supported, 33 percent opposed.

Regarding neighboring conflicts, 64 percent say the U.S. is losing the war in Afghanistan, while 25 percent disagree, and 47 percent say it is losing the war in Iraq, while 41 percent disagree.

Overall approval of Obama's performance as president has dropped to 51 percent, from 57 percent in March. Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the presidential elections two years ago.

The president received 45 percent approval on his handling of the economy, a drop from 55 percent in March. On health care, 51 percent approved, similar to the 50 percent who responded favorably in March. And, on homeland security, there was no change between March and October, with 62 percent approving.

Looking ahead to the midterm elections, 92 percent of American Jews surveyed say they plan to vote on November 2. Asked whether the country would be better off with a Congress controlled by the Republicans or Democrats, 57 percent favor a Democratic-controlled legislature, and 33 percent favor the Republicans. Survey respondents identified themselves as Democrat (48 percent), Republican (17 percent), and Independent (34 percent).

A series of questions regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process yielded results similar to previous surveys, showing continuity in American Jewish views of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and West Bank settlements.

Like the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor, and 45 percent oppose, establishment of a Palestinian state.

Regarding the future of West Bank settlements, 6 percent say "all," 56 percent say "some," and 37 percent say "none" should be dismantled as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem, Israel's capital, while 35 percent say Israel should compromise on the city's status in the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians.

American Jews remain nearly unanimous – 95 percent – in supporting the proposal requiring the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement. In March and in 2009, the figure was 94 percent.

Regarding the wider Middle East region, 50 percent of American Jews say the Turkish government today is not a friend of the United States, and 35 percent think it is, while 71 percent say it is not a friend of Israel, and 16 percent say it is.

On domestic U.S. policy issues, the survey posed one immigration question, regarding a much-publicized Arizona law giving police the power to ask individuals they have stopped about their residency status. The survey revealed that 52 percent support, and 46 percent, opposed the measure.

The AJC survey was conducted by Synovate, a leading research organization. The 800 respondents were interviewed by telephone between August 31 and October 5, 2010.

Source: American Jewish Committee