Skewing Jews’ views

In a previous post, I talked about the general idea of the politics of public opinion — the attempt to shape perceptions of what the public thinks. One really crude version of this, obvious to anyone who knows anything about how to conduct good polling, is to create poor quality poll data.

Frankly, all sorts of groups do this sort of thing. But today we have an example purporting to show that Jewish voters are abandoning President Obama. Given their relatively high incomes, some assume that more Jews will start to vote Republican some day. Also, some think that Jews are amenable to scare stories about Israel and are inclined to support what some people in the U.S. claim is “pro-Israel,” i.e., far-right positions about Israel.

So now we have this poll. As Adam Serwer notes, “[M]any questions in the poll are phrased in as leading a manner as possible.” In particular, the questions about Obama’s views about Israel are badly flawed.

And Washington Post polling manager Peyton Craighill states:

“This is a clear example of advocacy polling. They’ve generated leading questions to elicit a desired result to prove a point. In no way does this represent neutral, independent research.”

Frankly, it’s hard for me to understand what the audience is of this poll. Jewish citizens certainly won’t take it at face value. Jews (and I can say this both as a social scientist and a Jew) are very skeptical human beings who are not bothered by disputation; as the saying goes: Two Jews, three opinions. Among their disagreements are views about what actually is good for Israel.


While the claim that Jews are turning away from the Democratic party comes up pretty much every election year, Jews continue to be highly loyal Democrats. Jews are highly sensitive to issues involving tolerance and social justice. It’s highly unlikely American Jews will change their party loyalties anytime soon.

So who else might this poll affect? If it’s simply elite discourse, I don’t see what policy or political outcome would be expected to follow.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.