Political Animal


September 24, 2011 8:35 AM This Week in God

By Steve Benen

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the political world’s growing fascination with President Obama’s support from Jewish voters. It seems some reporters, at least lately, talk about little else, and point to the president’s falling poll numbers within the Jewish community as evidence of an important trend. Interest in the subject inly intensified in the wake of the recent special election in New York.

Amy Sullivan noted yesterday that we’ve been hearing about this for quite a while.

Tell me where you’ve heard this before: Jewish voters are unhappy with Barack Obama. He’s seen as insufficiently supportive of Israel. There are questions about whether he can win enough Jewish votes to carry key states.

If you guessed “during the 2008 Democratic primaries,” then ding, ding, ding! A loaf of raisin-studded challah for you! […]

Yet on Election Day 2008, 78% of Jewish voters cast their ballots for Obama, just slightly more than voted for Kerry in 2004 and just slightly less than did the same for Gore in 2000. In fact, you have to go back to 1988 to find a presidential election in which the Democratic candidate captured less than three-quarters of the Jewish vote.

But what about the drop in the president’s poll numbers among Jewish voters? It’s undeniable that his support has dropped, but as Sullivan explained, “[T]he drop has been no steeper or more rapid than the overall decline of Obama’s approval numbers nationally. Jewish Americans continue to hold much more positive opinions of Obama than the average American — 14 points higher over the course of his term.”

And what about going forward? When Marty Peretz is lauding the president for “doing the right thing on Israel,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying yesterday that Obama is “definitely a friend of Israel,” I tend to think some reporters’ preoccupation with Jewish support for the president is a little unnecessary.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* A recent Fox News poll found a whopping 77% of Americans “personally believe prayers can literally help someone heal from an injury or illness.” The same poll found the percentage of Americans embracing creationism slipping slightly, from 50% to 45%, though creationists still outnumbered those who accept modern biology by more than a two-to-one margin.

* In southern Alabama, a city judge is allowing those convicted of minor offenses to “work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine; or go to church every Sunday for a year.” Though 56 local churches are participating, the program probably raises some constitutional concerns. (thanks to R.B. for the tip)

* And in Michigan, U.S. Senate candidate Peter Konetchy (R) is arguing the nation should cap the number of Muslims allowed to immigrate to the United States. In case this isn’t obvious, that’s crazy.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • DAY on September 24, 2011 9:02 AM:

    Jews are the longest running oppressed traveling musical show on the planet, so they have a close, personal relationship with bigotry.
    And SOME of them are racist. Does the yiddish word "Schvartze" ring a bell?

  • DAY on September 24, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Of COURSE prayer can cure illness. So can Positive Thinking, Silva Mind Control, and a Vulcan Mind Meld.
    Whatever one choses to believe, we have arcane and esoteric powers of the mind that we have just begun to see, let alone understand. Why, even Atheists have been known to heal themselves with the power of their minds!

  • lou on September 24, 2011 9:12 AM:

    On the belief in prayer and on the non belief in evolution, not a thread of empiric evidence supports either view.
    But all of us, regardless of worldview, have a lot of delusional thinking on matters of great future effect. Question everything.

  • lou on September 24, 2011 9:20 AM:

    I amend my comment about prayer from "on the belief in prayer" to on the belief that god responds to prayer. Some evidence may support the former but definitely not the latter.

  • bob h on September 24, 2011 9:46 AM:

    “definitely a friend of Israel,”

    He's selling them bunker-busting bombs, after all.

  • Jesus weeps on September 24, 2011 10:54 AM:

    Gee whiz, if there's a cap on Muslim immigrants, does that mean that any citizen who converts to Islam will be deported, too?
    Inquiring minds want to know!

  • Daniel Kim on September 24, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Alabama forgot to add yet another alternative to jail: public flogging.

  • dj spellchecka on September 24, 2011 11:48 AM:

    in other twig news....

    usa today reports: About one in five Americans combine a view of God as actively engaged in daily workings of the world with an economic conservative view that opposes government regulation and champions the free market as a matter of faith.

    "They say the invisible hand of the free market is really God at work," says sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor Religion Survey, released today by Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

    "They think the economy works because God wants it to work. It's a new religious economic idealism," with politicians "invoking God while chanting 'less government,'" he says.

    81% of political conservatives say there is one "ultimate truth in the world, and new economic information of cost-benefit analysis is not going to change their mind about how the economy should work," Froese says.


  • Rick on September 24, 2011 12:24 PM:

    I don't suppose one could find an Ashram, Buddhist temple, Mosque, Shinto Shrine or Synagogue on that list in Alabama. Feel free to add any non-Christian religion you can name.

  • r on September 24, 2011 12:49 PM:

    "A recent Fox News poll found a whopping 77% of Americans “personally believe prayers can literally help someone heal from an injury or illness.” "

    God hates amputees.

  • pol on September 24, 2011 1:18 PM:

    I am a liberal, I am a Christian, I believe in God,and I believe that if we pray, God answers our prayers, including healing our illnesses . However, I also believe God sometimes says no to our prayers, including our request for healing.

    I'm pretty sure most Christians feel the same way. I guess that wasn't reflected in the poll.

    Put down religion if you must, but those of us who've enjoyed it our entire lives (or come by it more recently) really wish non-Christians would realize there are many liberals, like myself, who are Christians. Democratic values fit nicely with my religious beliefs. Why is it necessary to group all Christians together and put us all down? Can't you see I'm on your side?

    I get fed up with non-thinking conservative Christians, as well... but we're not all alike.

  • boctaoe on September 24, 2011 5:44 PM:

    Right On,"pol". First we have to know how the question on the poll was stated. Prayers for and by people can help with healing if the patient believes they will be helped. The healing I have seen occurs when the patient is at peace with his condition and outcome and feels the concern of others.
    It's not non-Christians that put down liberal Christians as much as Conservative Christians who can't believe one can be liberal and a Christian. I became a liberal because I was a Christian.

  • Bob on September 24, 2011 6:08 PM:

    RE: Jail or church

    Do you think the judge would let me hang out in my sleepwear, read the paper and watch political shows, which is what I do anyway on a Sunday?