A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communication equipment. Due to the clouds and haze the pilot could not determine his position or course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign and held it in the helicopter’s window. The sign said “WHERE AM I ?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign said, “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map and determine the course to steer to SEATAC (Seattle/Tacoma) airport and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the MICROSOFT building because they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer.”

That story was written about Microsoft, but could have been written about Gallup’s recent report on Obama’s approval rating in the Jewish community. They provided information that was technically accurate, but totally useless.

The Headline of their story was:

Jewish Support for Obama Down, but Not Disproportionately Current 13-point gap between Jewish and national support is about average

That headline is absolutely true, but its the wrong comparison.

Assuming  the overall Jewish American approval numbers are correct, Jews gave President Barack Obama a 54% job approval rating in September, down from 68% in May,  and drastically below the 83% at the beginning of 2009, but its the comparison to the general population that is disingenuous.

There is little sign that President Obama is suffering disproportionately in support among Jews; 54% approved of his job performance from Aug. 1-Sept. 15, 13 percentage points higher than his overall 41% approval rating during that time, and similar to the average 14-point gap seen throughout Obama’s term.

There’s the problem, Jews can’t be compared with total US Voters, because they don’t vote that way.  Jews are far more liberal-Democratic than the average voter.  According to Gallup US Party affiliation as of May 2011 44% of American voters are Democrats.

The latest Gallup figure I could find for Jewish party affiliation (Sept 2009) shows that American Jews are almost 50% more likely to be Democrats than the average American.

Why is this important? Because Obama’s approval rating has not fallen off with Democrats as fast it has for Republicans.  Using numbers from May 2011 and August 2011 Gallup reports the Democrat approval fall off is less the total US figures. Total US fell by 20% while total Democrats fell by fell by 12%

A more reasonable national baseline to compare the Jewish vote to would be 
to create a weighted average figure based on the general population approvals but weighted by the party affiliation of Jewish voters(66% Dem, 27% GOP and 7% independents)

That weighted average comes to 63.7% approval in May and 54.9% in August a drop of  almost 9% or a -13% difference in President Obama’s approval rating

At the same time Obama’s approval rating amongst Jewish voters dropped from 68% to 54% a drop of 14 percentage points or -16% difference.

Based on this more realistic comparison President Obama’s job approval is falling faster than the national average.  While the president enjoyed a higher approval rating this May in the Jewish community than the national average (based on Jewish party affiliation), his approval today is slightly lower than the national average.

That’s where Gallup gets it wrong. By comparing the drop in Obama’s approval in the Jewish community to that of the overall voter, it does a disservice to it readership and creates a dishonest story.

The old proverb says there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Friday’s Gallup look at Obama Approval Rating amongst Jewish voters has  proven that proverb to be very true.

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