Poll: Jewish voters back Biden in Israel-Hamas war, trust president to fight antisemitism

Jewish voters strongly support President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict and would trust him over former president Donald Trump to fight growing antisemitism, a national poll has found.

Results released this week by the nonpartisan Jewish Electorate Institute also showed Biden with a considerably higher job approval rating among Jewish voters than among the general U.S. population.

While the results weren’t necessarily surprising given that most Jewish voters lean Democrat, “it is reaffirming of the fact that Jews know and trust that Joe Biden stands with us and stands with Israel,” said Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

President Joe Biden spoke about the United States' support for Israel following the Hamas attacks during a roundtable with Jewish community leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

President Joe Biden spoke about the United States’ support for Israel following the Hamas attacks during a roundtable with Jewish community leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

About three-fourths (74%) of Jewish voters approve of Biden’s handling of the ongoing conflict, according to the poll of 800 Jewish voters conducted from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds (68%) said they would support Biden over Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate – slightly less than the portion (74%) who said they voted for Biden in 2020.

About two-thirds (66%) of Jewish voters said they approved of Biden’s performance as president, while a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University survey showed Biden’s overall job approval at just 40%.

“There continues to be extraordinary support for Biden,” said Jim Gerstein of GBAO Strategies, the Washington, D.C.-based firm that conducted the poll. “That doesn’t happen in a vacuum: Donald Trump, the likely Republican candidate for president, is extraordinarily unpopular with Jewish voters. I would actually expect that to grow as the election gets closer.”

Jewish voters support Biden approach to Israel-Hamas conflict

The poll, which measured attitudes among the Jewish American electorate about Israel, antisemitism and the 2024 election, found support for Trump at just 22% of Jewish voters, an 8-point decline compared to a pre-2020 election poll.

Sam Markstein, national political director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the group was “confident” that the results would not be predictive of November 2024 numbers. Trump, he noted, took 24% of the Jewish vote in 2016 and more than 30% in 2020.

“The trendlines are clear: Jewish voters are moving away from the Democratic Party and toward the Republican Party,” Markstein said.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 30: Posters of some of those kidnapped by Hamas in Israeli are displayed on a pole outside of New York University (NYU) as tensions between supporters of Palestine and Israel increase on college campuses across the nation on October 30, 2023 in New York City. The Biden administration is announcing new actions in an attempt to crack down on antisemitic incidents on college campuses following the Hamas terror attacks on Israel. Many Jewish and Israeli students have felt threatened after large and vocal demonstrations against the fighting in Gaza broke out at numerous universities. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 776055985 ORIG FILE ID: 1765390958

Biden’s strongest poll support came from the population’s largest voting blocs – reform Jews and those not aligned with any particular denomination. Orthodox Jews were the only group not supporting Biden, with just 22% in favor.

Orthodox Jews were nonetheless among the most likely to approve Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict. And while young voters were less likely than older generations to approve, they nonetheless support Biden over Trump by an overwhelming margin.

More than 80% of Jewish voters said they approved of specific actions Biden has taken to support Israel in its war with Hamas, including visiting the country and meeting with Israeli leaders, dispatching aircraft carriers to the East Mediterranean Sea to deter would-be aggressors and having senior American officials attend Israeli war cabinet meetings to discuss strategy and offer counsel.

Meanwhile, 80% said they supported President Biden’s $14.5 billion request to Congress for military aid to Israel, while 68% approved of U.S. calls for a humanitarian pause to enable safe delivery of food, water and medicine to Gaza.

“That level of support supersedes party lines,” Soifer said. “Jewish voters understand these issues and are following them closely.”

‘Jewish Americans are consumed with what’s going on’

The poll results bear that out. Nearly all (97%) of respondents said they were closely following news coverage of the conflict; 75% said they were following very closely.

Protesters gather with placards and flags during the 'London Rally For Palestine' in Trafalgar Square, central London, on Nov. 4, 2023, calling for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Thousands of civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, have died since Oct. 7, 2023, after Palestinian Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip entered southern Israel in an unprecedented attack, triggering a war declared by Israel on Hamas with retaliatory bombings on Gaza.

“Jewish Americans are consumed with what’s going on,” Gerstein said. “This speaks to the horror of Oct. 7 and how it has drawn them in – plus we have an ongoing hostage situation.”

Additionally, the poll found that Jewish voters are more emotionally attached to Israel than in an institute poll taken earlier this year. Four in five (82%) said they felt at least somewhat attached to Israel.

While that number was somewhat consistent, the level of intensity climbed, Gerstein said. In June, just 33% of respondents considered themselves very emotionally attached to Israel; in the latest poll, that figure had jumped to 51%.

Those stronger bonds with Israel, however, did not translate into favorable views of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. More than six in 10 (61%) said they viewed Netanyahu unfavorably, compared to 31% who viewed him positively.

“He has not gotten a bump at all despite the crisis,” Gerstein said.

Respondents were also asked about the notion of being “pro-Israel” and what that entailed. Could a person be critical of Israeli government policies and still be considered pro-Israel? More than nine in 10 (91%) said yes.

About three-fourths (76%) said being pro-Israel could include criticizing Israel’s handling of the conflict with Hamas. However, agreement varied widely among groups, with those aged 18 to 35 largely agreeing and Orthodox Jews strongly in opposition.

“They’re (Orthodox Jews) fine being critical of Israeli government policy, but they’re not fine with being critical with Israel’s conduct of the war,” Gerstein said.

Concerns intensify over antisemitism

As reports of antisemitism in the U.S., including attacks from the far left, have surged along with Islamophobia since the war’s inception, worries over both have grown.

More than nine in 10 Jewish voters (93%) said they were at least “somewhat concerned” about antisemitism in the U.S., and while that share has remained consistent since April 2022, Gerstein said, what has changed is the level of intensity: While about six in 10 (59%) surveyed last year said they were “very concerned” about antisemitism, that figure has grown to nearly eight in 10 today (79%).

Six in 10 Jewish voters said they trusted Biden to fight antisemitism, compared to 22% of those who said they trusted Trump.

“By a nearly 3-to-1 margin, Jews trust Democrats to fight this threat,” said Soifer, of the Jewish Democratic Council. “And that is because of President Biden’s leadership and moral clarity.”

Soifer said she was in the room when the president met with Jewish American leaders on Oct. 11, four days after Hamas militants stormed Israel’s southern border in a surprise attack, killing 1,400 and taking about 240 Israelis hostage.

“His emotion was palpable,” she said. “That same day, Donald Trump spoke in Florida at a campaign event and mocked Israel and then said Hezbollah was ‘very smart,’ demonstrating a stark contrast between the leaders of the two parties.”

As a result, Soifer said, Biden’s support is unlikely to fade as long as the presumptive Republican candidate is Trump, who she said has “enabled, incited and echoed dangerous right-wing extremists who have threatened the Jewish community…. Even fewer Jewish voters will support him in 2024 given his abhorrent mocking of Israel amid the worst crisis in 50 years.”

Israeli soldiers patrol near the border with the Gaza Strip on Nov. 17, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Israeli soldiers patrol near the border with the Gaza Strip on Nov. 17, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Bernstein, of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, noted that the last Democratic presidential candidate to lose the Jewish vote in the last century was Jimmy Carter, whose support among Jewish voters fell from 71% in 1976 to 45% four years later. In addition to being much less popular in 1980 than in 1976, Carter was also perceived as hostile to Israel, he said.

But with Trump viewed negatively by more than three quarters of Jewish voters (77%) – and the Republican Party itself not far behind (73%) – that is unlikely to change.

“Jews are overwhelmingly Democrat,” Bernstein said. “They tend to see threats to their wellbeing coming from the right rather than the left. That could change because of the antisemitism that we’re witnessing from the far left, but that doesn’t mean it will translate into support for a Republican candidate for president.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel-Hamas war: Jewish voters favor Biden policies, leadership

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