Pennsylvania’s Jews remained a solidly liberal and progressive constituency in the Sestak-Toomey Senate race, strongly support pro-Israel, pro-peace positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and were unmoved by neoconservative and partisan attacks.
- Despite well-financed attacks on Sestak which were aimed at Jewish voters, Sestak overwhelmingly won the Jewish vote. Sestak’s 71-23 margin with Jewish voters outpaced Dan Onorato, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Governor, who had a 68-27 margin over Republican Tom Corbett.
- Sestak was not damaged by attacks on his positions on military tribunals or Israel. Most Jewish voters did not see or hear about the attacks on Sestak, and among those who did, the attacks had little impact. The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ad had a higher recall (39 percent) – due to its significantly higher advertising buy – than the criticism of Sestak’s positions on Israel (30 percent). But more importantly, these attacks on Sestak’s support for Israel failed to move a total of 86 percent of Jewish voters who indicated that they were either unaware of the criticism (70 percent) or that it made no difference in their vote even if they were aware of the criticism (16 percent). The remaining voters were split, with 8 percent more likely to vote for Toomey and 5 percent more likely to vote for Sestak as a result of the attacks, and these voters were primarily Republican and Democratic partisans whose votes were not up for grabs.
- Jewish voters trusted Sestak to do a better job on both domestic and international issues. Sestak was seen as better than Toomey on the economy (61 to 22 percent), Social Security and Medicare (64 to 19 percent), national security (56 to 20 percent), and supporting Israel (41 to 22 percent). Perhaps the most telling comparison is “fighting for the things that are most important to me,” on which Sestak outperformed Toomey 65 to 21 percent.
- While the economy continues to struggle, it dominates the political environment for all Americans, including Jewish voters. The economy was far and away the most important issue for Jewish voters in Pennsylvania, as 53 percent cited it as one of the top two issues determining their vote. Health care (35 percent) was the only other issue that came within 20 points of the economy. Israel was cited by 8 percent of Pennsylvania Jews and was the 8th most important issue on a list of 12 issues. Iran was the least important issue and cited by 1 percent.
- President Obama’s job performance gets high marks from Pennsylvania Jews. The President has a 63 percent approval rating for handling his job. This drops to 53 percent approval on his handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict. When examining this gap between Obama’s overall approval and his approval on the conflict, two important dynamics emerge: 1) Jews agree with his policies on the conflict (60 percent), but are divided over whether they like the way he is executing these policies (36 percent like the way he is executing his policy and 24 percent do not like the way he is executing it; only 29 percent disagree with his policies on the Arab-Israeli conflict); 2) Israel and the Middle East is simply not a high priority for most Jewish voters, and Obama’s performance in this area is viewed independently of his overall job performance and personal favorability with Jews.