Ninety-eight percent of American Jews do not rank Iran as a major factor influencing their vote in the 2010 midterm elections, according to a poll sponsored by the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J-Street group.
The J-Street poll, announced on Monday, comes on the back of the highly publicized AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference this week, where speakers ranging from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congressmen and other dignitaries, spent three days loudly warning about an Iranian nuclear threat.
But only two percent of American Jews said Iran actually figured into their votes.
This is the first time that a J-Street poll has included “Iran” as an option in this capacity. Most polls ask Jewish Americans how they “feel” about aspects of Iran, as opposed to whether it enters into their voting deliberations.
Jim Gerstein, the public opinion research specialist who conducted the poll on behalf of J-Street, agreed that this result was unexpected: “It caught my attention as well – I didn’t expect it to be that low.”
Gerstein points out that Jewish Americans consistently prioritize US domestic issues over a foreign policy focus – something not reflected in the rhetoric of many major national groups representing this constituency.
The J-Street poll results reflect his claim to a large extent. The top priorities of respondents were the economy, healthcare, the deficit/government spending and social security/ Medicare. Immediately following were three foreign policy hot buttons issues – terrorism/national security, Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – trailed by a range of other domestic concerns.
Iran was at the very bottom of the list, and ranked even lower on the radar of Jewish-Americans than the issue of separation between religion and state. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.
J-Steet’s Director of Policy and Strategy Hadar Susskind also found the poll’s result on Iran to be noteworthy. “It’s not what you heard at the AIPAC conference,” he says. His guess is that Iran won’t play a role in the Midterm elections for a variety of reasons, one being that both Republicans and Democrats agree on a tough sanctions regime – if that comes to pass.
J-Street does not support either US or Israeli military intervention in Iran as a policy option.
Susskind also explains that AIPAC – and the deafening anti-Iran rhetoric that was voiced at its recent conference – only represents a “subset” of the American Jewish community. He adds:
“Broadly, they (American Jews) do think there is a threat from Iran. There is a large number, however, who don’t think that the apocalyptic political rhetoric serves us well.”
Gerstein, who has conducted extensive public opinion research within the American Jewish community and in Israel, says of the J-Street poll’s result: “There’s definitely a gap between the priorities of American Jews and the priorities of some of the organizations lobbying in the name of American Jews.”
First published on the Huffington Post, March 23, 2010