Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has “historically bad” support among Jewish voters in Florida, with large numbers rejecting his proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigration and most doubting his professed strong support for Israel, a new poll of Jewish voters has found.
If the Florida polling figures released Friday by GBA Strategies, a Washington-based Democratic polling firm, are a guide nationwide, Trump threatens to reverse gains Republicans have made among Jews in recent White House elections and to stem any political gain from accusations that President Barack Obama has been weak on Israel.
In fact, the poll results cast doubt on the popular view that Israel is a defining election issue for Jews: Only 8 percent of those surveyed, half of whom live in South Florida, cited Israel policy as one of their top two priorities.
Echoing concerns among all Americans, Israel fell far behind the top issues of the economy, the Islamic State terrorist group and the makeup of the Supreme Court.
The survey of 500 Florida Jewish voters was conducted Aug. 4-8 by GBA Strategies, a Washington-based Democratic polling firm. The survey had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
Asked whom they would vote for if the November election were held today, 66 percent picked Hillary Clinton, a level of support among Florida Jews that matches the share of votes Obama received in 2012. Trump was selected by 23 percent, a significant drop-off from the 30 percent share that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received among Florida Jewish voters in 2012.
The survey of 500 Florida Jewish voters was conducted Aug. 4-8. The survey had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
“Donald Trump has very abysmal numbers,” Jim Gerstein, a co-founder of GBA Strategies, said in a conference call. “It’s going to be very difficult for him to get traction when there is this negative view of him.”
Jews make up 5 percent of voters in Florida, more than twice the national share, and they vote in proportionately higher numbers than Americans as a whole.
71 The percentage of Florida Jewish voters who hold unfavorable views of Donald Trump
Among voters overall in Florida, Trump is faring much better. He trails Clinton by 44-42 percent, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released Thursday.
But in a major battleground state that decided the 2000 White House race by a 537-vote margin and has seen close results since then, Trump’s low standing with Jewish voters might help determine whether he wins Florida.
Despite Israel’s history of wars with neighboring Arab Muslim countries, the poll found that three-quarters of the respondents oppose Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigrants. That’s higher than the 59 percent of all Americans who rejected it in a recent CBS/New York Times poll.
And despite Iran’s historic hostility toward Israel, only 39 percent of Florida Jews oppose the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Florida Jews are skeptical of other of Trump’s core issues.
When pollsters read them past Trump statements expressing strong support for Israel, only 36 percent said they were very or somewhat convinced. By contrast, 67 percent expressed confidence in Clinton’s public stances on Israel.
Just 32 percent of those surveyed expressed faith in Trump’s vows to get tough on the Islamic State. The pollsters did not try to gauge the response of Florida Jewish voters to Clinton’s stance on the jihadist group.
Beyond the presidential election, Florida Jews indicated less pessimism about the country’s course than Americans as a whole have.
Among Jews in Florida, Hillary remains very popular. Trump is extremely unpopular.
Pollster Jim Gerstein
Forty-five percent said the country was on the wrong track, compared with 64 percent in a recent poll of Americans by Rasmussen Reports.
“There isn’t a big call for change or a new direction,” Gerstein said.
In another break with the country as a whole, just 31 percent of Florida Jews hold unfavorable views of Clinton, the poll found, compared with 53 percent of all Americans according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
Seventy-one percent of the respondents said they viewed Trump unfavorably, a larger share than his 61 percent unfavorable rating nationwide.
“Among Jews in Florida, Hillary remains very popular,” Gerstein said. “Trump is extremely unpopular.”
National Jewish support for Republican presidential candidates has ranged from 11 percent to 45 percent in the last century, with no White House aspirant reaching 40 percent since President Dwight Eisenhower’s landslide re-election in 1956.
Ronald Reagan gained 39 percent of the Jewish vote in his crushing defeat of President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
The GOP share of the Jewish presidential vote declined from that point, hitting a low of 11 percent in 1992, when Jews overwhelmingly preferred Bill Clinton over President George H.W. Bush.
Republican candidates steadily improved in the next five White House elections over two decades, with Romney reaching 30 percent.
James Rosen: 202-383-6157; Twitter: @jamesmartinrose