Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich has strong favorability ratings among likely voters, with 46% viewing her positively and 39% negatively, according to findings in a new Times of Israel pre-election poll. 

The survey reveals that the Labor chair — whose party we show polling at 21 seats — has successfully branded herself on the center and left in a positive light, but at the expense of support on the right. Notably, among voters who voted for Kadima in 2009, 57% view her positively and 37% negatively.

As she looks to attract voters in the campaign’s final days, her greatest opportunity lies in undecided voters, as seen in her favorability ratings among the different parties. A full 50% of undecided voters have a favorable view towards Yachimovich, followed by 48% of Meretz, 44% of Shas, 43% of Hatnua, 39% of Yesh Atid, 34% of Jewish Home, and 32% of Likud-Beytenu voters.

The 50% of undecided voters who view her positively represent a large opportunity for Labor — 16% of the electorate or 19 seats. Of Labor voters, 88% have positive views of Yachimovich. While high, this falls below Benjamin Netanyahu’s 99% favorability among Likud-Beytenu and Naftali Bennett’s 95% favorability among Jewish Home voters. This likely shows the strength of the Labor party brand to attract even voters who dislike the chairwoman.

Yachimovich faces an interesting challenge as she campaigns against Netanyahu. According to the results of our poll, 46% of voters have a positive view of Yachimovich. In Knesset terms, if everyone who liked her voted for her, she would receive 55 seats in the Knesset. However, among the voters who view Yachimovich positively, 46% view Netanyahu positively and 52% negatively. Therefore, as Yachimovich attacks the prime minister and announces her refusal to sit in a government with him, she is effectively focusing her campaign on a target group of 24% of voters (29 seats in Knesset) who like her but dislike the prime minister. The success of her campaign will be judged on how many of these voters end up voting for her come January 22.

It should be noted that Bennett has the opposite challenge. Of the 41% of voters who are favorable to him, 71% are also favorable to Netanyahu. He must work to convince as many voters as possible who like him and Netanyahu (29% or 35 seats in Knesset) to vote for Jewish Home rather than Likud-Beytenu.

Women and Yachimovich

What effect does Shelly Yachimovich have on the female voter?

The data points to an interesting conclusion: Yachimovich has a female voter problem. Specifically, an interestingly large proportion of female voters — 18% — either haven’t heard of her, or don’t offer an opinion of her (as opposed to 12% among men), driven by traditional, Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women, Ashkenazi women, and younger women. Her campaign should consider reaching out specifically to these voters.

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This is the third in a series of nine articles that The Times of Israel is publishing this week on the basis of our pre-election poll. Formulated by The Times of Israel and the author, from political consultancy firm (202) Strategies, with field work conducted by TRI-Strategic Research between December 25 and January 2, our survey is the most accurate publicly available poll to date, having questioned a relatively large sample of 803 likely voters — as opposed to the Hebrew media’s norm of 500 eligible voters. Of those 803, also in contrast to the Hebrew media norm, 10% of our surveys were conducted by cellphone, and another 10% were conducted in Arabic. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, with a confidence level of 95%.

The methodology of the poll is detailed here and the raw results are here.

Stephan Miller, cited by Campaigns and Elections magazine in 2008 as “James Carville’s young protege,” is an American-Israeli public opinion research analyst and communications strategist, and a former adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who has worked on campaigns in eight countries across three continents.