A report purporting to show potentially historic levels of support from Jewish voters for Mitt Romney in a general election matchup with Barack Obama appears to be either profoundly flawed or simply fabricated.
Last week, the website Miami Political Buzz Examiner published a story stating that the former Massachusetts governor was "a new political star (of David)" in Florida. A "newly released poll" conducted by the Florida Coalition of Independent Jewish Congregations (FCIJC), the article said, showed that 52 percent of the state's "registered Jewish voters would support a Romney-led Republican presidential ticket."
The results, wrote author Jay Schorr, would resemble a "sea change in Florida's political landscape." In late September, the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling found that President Obama would beat Romney by a margin of 78 to 11 percent among Florida Jews.
While Schorr's piece hadn't spread widely around the Internet, it was picked up in some corners of the Jewish blogosphere. It was also sent to The Huffington Post by one shocked Floridian and one confounded Democratic operative, who worried that it would feed a narrative about the president having trouble garnering support from Jews.
A tiny scratch beneath the surface reveals multiple problems with the story. For starters, it was impossible to find anyone in Florida's Jewish community who has actually heard of the Florida Coalition of Independent Jewish Congregations.
"No. I'm sorry, I have never heard of them," said Carol Brick-Turin, director of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council, in a typical response to inquiries about the group.
A search of the IRS database of non-profit organizations turned up nothing on the FCIJC. Nor did a Lexis-Nexis search of records from the past five years or a search of corporate registrations in the state of Florida. A Google search only turned up Schorr's article and links to it.
The Huffington Post reached out to Joe Berkofsky, managing director of communications at The Jewish Federations of North America to see if he knew of the organization. "Sorry," he replied via email, "I have no knowledge of them."
Schorr, who bills himself as a "nationally renowned, award-winning writer, producer and author," has at least one book to his credit ("50 Ways to Look Busy At Work – Even When You're Not"). He responded to a request for comment via email.
"The FCIJ," he explained, "is a private organization comprised of both religious and secular individuals culled from Jewish houses of worship across Florida. While not a PAC, their agenda seems to be quite political. They are backed by some deep pockets and pretty much operate under the radar. I am not surprised they don’t have a website."
As for the polling data, Schorr wrote that the numbers were "conducted for internal use" but had been "leaked" through "the Jewish grapevine down here on condition of anonymity." Schorr acknowledged that he did not know the "statistical methodology" of the poll and wrote that the "margins of error, cross-tabs/contingency tables, etc. were not available for public consumption."
But because his sources for the story were "impeccable," he went with it. "The big mahkhers who conducted this poll wield political influence statewide and have a solid track record of polling on Jewish issues," Schorr wrote.
This statement, naturally, left several other questions unanswered, including regarding why Schorr would run a poll without knowing its methodology and what other work the FCIJC has done. Schorr didn't respond to a request for follow-up. He ended his first email by apologizing for being unable to "be of more assistance."
But the problems with his story don't end there. In the piece, he quoted a "political analyst" named "Bob Allen" without providing any identification or affiliation. There was no immediate evidence that such a person actually existed. Schorr also quoted Jeff Goldenblatt, a 19-year-old sophomore at Florida International University in Miami, as saying of Romney: "I don’t think he’ll change his stance on Israel, unlike what Obama has done."
Lissette Lanza, an official with the Office of Media Relations at Florida International University, told The Huffington Post that her office "could not find a student with the name and age" as reported.
A hat tip is due to HuffPost reader Marsha B. Cohen, who tipped off OfftheBus about this report. If you see campaign news, ads, robocalls or flyers you think The Huffington Post should see, email firstname.lastname@example.org.