U.S. citizens who have already cast their absentee ballots in Israel have voted massively in favor of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama.
Of the Americans living in Israel who have already voted, 85% voted for Romney, while only 14% voted for Obama. This, according to an exit poll commissioned by iVoteIsrael, a group that was formed this year to help U.S. citizens residing in Israel register to vote. The group says 80,000 have voted so far compared with 20,000 Americans from Israel who voted in 2008, a four-fold increase.
These overseas voters applied for ballots in 49 states; however, the battleground states are of particular interest. iVoteIsrael says some 7,500 Israel-based Americans who voted are registered in the state of Florida, 3,500 in Ohio and 3,500 in Pennsylvania.
With talk of a possible Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, hints from the Palestinians that they want to renew their UN statehood bid and ongoing threats emerging from newly radicalized neighbors in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” it’s no wonder the stakes are high in this election for those citizens living in Israel. The exit poll revealed “61% of voters from Israel cited Jerusalem and Peace Process negotiations as a primary motivating factor for voting.”
More specifically, iVoteIsrael reports that 21% of absentee voters surveyed said they were voting primarily on the issue of Iran.
Israel-based turnout is significantly higher than in other countries, as iVote Israel explains in a press release:
Internationally American ex-Pats typically have a 5% turnout rate. If those trends continue, the American vote from Israel will represent 20-25% of the total ex-Pat community from around the world, further solidifying the unique nature of the relationship between the US and Israel, which is not limited to the diplomatic and strategic levels but also, at the grassroots and electoral level.
“This connection between countries demonstrates the breadth of the unique relationship between the two countries, and iVoteIsrael is proud to have played a role in illustrating this connection to the public,” commented [iVote National Director Elie] Pieprz.
The poll is being criticized by Democrats. The Times of Israel reports:
Israeli Democrats, however, said iVoteIsrael’s survey was “slanted and extremely partial,” in part because the polling sample included only voters who cast their ballots through the organization and because it said iVoteIsrael was primarily active among more conservative-leaning Orthodox communities.
iVoteIsrael, which hosted 35 “voter assistant drives” and eight debates between Democrats and Republicans, says it is entirely nonpartisan. But the organization has come under fire for what some observers said was a pro-Romney bias in its “get out the vote” campaign. Some of its key staffers have right-wing political backgrounds, and the nonprofit behind the campaign has ties to right-leaning US-Jewish billionaire Ronald Lauder.
At a press conference announcing the findings, iVoteIsrael said similar findings to the overall results also applied in two battleground states, Ohio (84.4% for Romney) and Florida (85.8% for Romney). Its findings, it said, were based on the “only authoritative exit poll” conducted among actual voters living in Israel.
Hillel Schenker who heads Democrats Abroad Israel complained to the Times of Israel that iVoteIsrael set up its survey boxes primarily in religious and conservative-leaning areas like Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlements in the Judea section of the West Bank. He also contends that Democratic voters applied for their absentee ballots on their own, without using iVoteIsrael’s services.
There are 160,000 eligible U.S. voters living in Israel according to The New York Times.
At its press conference, iVoteIsrael reported that about 50% percent of respondents described themselves as Orthodox Jews, and another 22% said called themselves ultra-Orthodox.
The poll sampled 1,572 absentee voters and has a margin of error of 2.5%.