By Elise Viebeck - 09/19/11 09:00 AM EDT
More than half of likely voters say the Obama administration’s policy on
Israel is either somewhat or very important to the way they vote,
according to this week’s The Hill Poll.
The survey comes just as Republicans managed to win the Brooklyn- and Queens-based congressional seat of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), in what many called a referendum on President Obama’s approach to Israel.
The winner, newly sworn in Rep. Bob Turner (R), used the issue to bludgeon his Democratic opponent, David Weprin, in the heavily Jewish district.
Obama is expected to meet early this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, as the United Nations holds its annual General Assembly meetings.
According to The Hill Poll, more than 25 percent consider the administration’s approach to Israel “very important” to the way they vote. An additional 36 percent consider it “somewhat important.”
Republicans give the issue more weight than do Democrats, the poll found. More than 4 in 10 who identify with the GOP called it “very important” to their vote, with another 1 in 3 Republicans calling it “somewhat important.” Only 17 percent of GOP voters called the issue “not very important.”
Democrats were split somewhat more evenly: About 1 in 3 considered it “somewhat important” to their votes, while nearly 4 in 10 called it “not very important.”
Voters who did not identify as either Republicans or Democrats were most likely to consider the issue “somewhat important,” with nearly half agreeing with that assessment.
Obama’s approach toward Israel may haunt him in his upcoming reelection campaign as he tries to woo the centrist voters who supported him in 2008.
A major speech on Israel given by Obama in May was widely seen as conceding a major demand of the Palestinians — to base any future state on the borders that existed between them and the Israelis in 1967, prior to the Six Day War.
A day after the speech, Netanyahu criticized the 1967-border idea as “indefensible” in an unusual Oval Office exchange in which he was widely perceived to have hectored Obama.
Still, despite the criticism Obama has received on the issue, nearly 4 in 10 likely voters said the president is neither pro-Israel nor anti-Israel.
By party, the splits are not surprising: Nearly half of Republicans called Obama “anti-Israel,” while more than half of Democrats said he is neither pro- nor anti-Israel.
Independent voters might again be a problem for the president on this question, with nearly 4 in 10 believing he is “anti-Israel.”
Fifty percent of independents also said Obama is “not supportive enough” of Israel in responding to a separate question, making them even more strident than Republicans, slightly less than half of whom said Obama does not support Israel enough.
A plurality of Democrats (44 percent) said his support is “about right.”
In general, respondents’ conclusions appeared to be closely correlated with their general level of approval of Obama.
Those who strongly or somewhat approve of Obama were most likely to call his support of Israel “about right.” Those who strongly disapprove of Obama were most likely, at nearly 7 in 10, to say he was “not supportive enough.”
Overall, among likely voters, nearly 4 in 10 agreed that Obama is “not supportive enough” of Israel, while 20 percent think he is “too supportive” and a third said his support is “about right.”
Pulse Opinion Research conducted The Hill Poll among 1,000 likely voters on Sept. 15. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.