In the 2004 election, the Democratic candidate John Kerry received 74 percent of the Jewish vote while Bush received merely 25 percent.

Last May — according to a recent article — a Gallup poll reported that this party divide had narrowed, with 61 percent of Jews claiming support for Obama and 32 percent for McCain.

Is Obama getting less Jewish support than he might have reasonably expected, and could this be due to the false belief of some Jews that he is a Muslim?

Newsweek declared a couple weeks ago: “Twelve percent of voters surveyed said that Obama was sworn in as a United States senator on a Qur’an, while 26 percent believe the Democratic candidate was raised as a Muslim and 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school as a child growing up in Indonesia. None of these things is true.” (1)

I have not been able to find a breakdown by religion of the people who hold these false beliefs about Obama’s faith. We are told that, on average, 12 percent of American voters believe Obama is a Muslim. Are Jews more or less likely to hold this false belief, compared to people of other religious backgrounds, and, if there is a difference one way or the other, what might be the reason for it?

J. J. Goldberg, editorial director of the Jewish newspaper The Forward, was quoted as speculating that Obama’s “decision to keep his middle name, Hussein, raises symbolic fears among some of these voters, and reports about his record — including his early flirtation with black identity politics and his long association with Reverend Wright — strengthen these fears.” (2)

On the other hand, Jews have plenty of other reasons to support Obama. As it was pointed out over a year ago: “His early opposition to the Iraq war has also reverberated with Jewish Americans, who, according to Gallup polls, are more likely to view the war as a mistake than are Americans of any other faith.” (3)

I would be interested to find out — as I’m sure the Obama campaign would also like to ascertain — how the false belief that the Christian senator is actually a Muslim is propagated. Is it by ignorance, innocent rumor, or a deliberate campaign of to spread false information? How do Jewish people fit into this drama and how do we share responsibility for it?

(1) “Glow fading?” Jonathan Darman. Newsweek Web Exclusive. July 11, 2008.
(2) “Obama struggling to convince all Jewish voters.” AFP. July 19, 2008.
(3) “For Barack Obama, a Careful Courting of Jewish Vote.” Ariel Sabar. Christian Science Monitor. May 3, 2007.