updated 1/12/2004 10:27:12 AM ET 2004-01-12T15:27:12

U.S. Jews would overwhelmingly support any major Democratic candidate over President Bush if the election were held today, according to the 2004 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion.

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Joe Lieberman, the only Jewish candidate, would defeat Republican Bush by the largest margin, 71 percent to 24 percent, the poll found.

In one-on-one matchups with the president, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, John Kerry and Richard Gephardt would each receive about 60 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to about 30 percent for Bush, according to the survey conducted for the American Jewish Committee and released Monday.

The poll omitted Democrats Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton because they were not considered strong candidates, the New York-based public policy group said.

American Jews tend to vote Democrat, and 66 percent said they backed Al Gore in the 2000 race.

Slight uptick in GOP numbers
Still, GOP leaders have been courting Jews, and the poll did find a slight increase in the percentage who considered themselves Republican, from 9 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2004.

However, more than half of those surveyed identified themselves as Democrats. About one-third said they were independent.

The survey also found disagreement with some Bush policies.

Fifty-four percent of those polled disapprove of how Bush has handled the fight against terrorism and the U.S.-led war on Iraq, while a majority said the United States should not act without the support of its allies in responding to international crises.

Jews also overwhelmingly oppose government funding for social service programs operated by religious groups, the survey found. Allowing faith-based organizations to compete for such funding is a top Bush initiative.

60 percent back Sharon's policies
Sixty percent said they supported how the Israeli government has handled relations with the Palestinian Authority, while 54 percent said they favored creating a Palestinian state.

More than two-thirds said Israel should be willing to dismantle all or some of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Nearly 70 percent said anti-Semitism was a greater threat to Jewish life in the United States than intermarriage, and said that among U.S. religious groups, Muslims and the “Religious Right” were the most anti-Semitic.

The survey of 1,000 people was conducted Nov. 25-Dec. 11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

There are about 5.2 million Jews in the United States, according to a National Jewish Population Survey released in September. The survey included people who said they were Jewish, were born to a Jewish parent or raised Jewish and did not convert to another religion.

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