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Poll: How Arab Americans will vote and why

Nov 02,2020 - Last updated at Nov 02,2020

When they go to the polls to cast their ballot for President of the United States, 59 per cent of Arab Americans say they will vote for Democratic candidate Joseph Biden with only 35 per cent supporting the reelection of President Trump. This is one of the findings of a nationwide poll of 805 Arab American voters conducted by the Arab American Institute during the second week of October 2020.

Overall, Joseph Biden is viewed favourably by 74 per cent of Arab American voters and unfavourably by only 25 per cent, while President Trump’s favourable/unfavourable ratio is a lukewarm 48 per cent to 51 per cen. Even a majority (55 per cent) of Arab American Republicans have a favourable view of Biden.

One of the few positive signs for Donald Trump is the fact that he has galvanised support among Arab American Republicans and brought home some of those who, during the first two decades of this century, had stopped self-identifying with the GOP. The 40 per cent Democrat/33 per cent Republican split among Arab American voters represents a narrowing of the gap between the two parties. The partisan divide of 40 per cent to 38 per cent in 2000 had grown each election cycle since then. By 2016, it had become 52 per cent to 26 per cent. Today’s party identification numbers are similar to 2002 and 2004 when it was 39 per cent to 31 per cent.

As a result, while Biden holds a significant lead over Trump in this year’s poll, the margin is somewhat less than the gap that separated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Back in 2016, Clintons margin over Trump was 58 per cent to 25 per cent, with a significant number of Arab American Republicans not voting.

In this 2020 poll, the Democratic candidate Joseph Biden wins among almost all demographic groups, but by a somewhat smaller margin than former President Barack Obama in 2008. Biden leads among Catholics (55 per cent to 43 per cent), Muslims (60 per cent to 30 per cent) and naturalised citizens (64 per cent to 23 per cent). Where Biden’s margins are largest are among younger Arab American voters (67 per cent to 27 per cent) and senior citizens (66 per cent to 26 per cent).

When provided a list of 14 policy concerns and asked to identify the issues they feel are most important in determining their votes in this election, 40per cent of Arab Americans said their number one concern was “deteriorating race relations in the US today.” This was followed by jobs and the economy (23 per cent), health care (21 per cent), the environment and climate change (17 per cent), and Social Security and Medicare (10 per cent). On all of these issues, except for “jobs and the economy,” Biden was favoured over Trump by a significant margin.

The issue of deteriorating race relations looms large for Arab American voters with 70 per cent saying they have a positive view of the nationwide demonstrations supporting Black lives and 74 per cent holding critical views of policing practices in the US.

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the only foreign policy issue mentioned in the above list of overall concerns and was listed as a top priority by only 5 per cent of Arab American voters. But when it comes to identifying their major issues of concern in the Middle East, 45 per cent of Arab Americans said that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of their top concerns.

This was followed by “meeting the humanitarian concerns of the Syrian people” and “addressing the ongoing political and economic crises in Lebanon.” By a margin of two to one, President Trump was seen as having been more ineffective than effective in handling of each of these critical concerns. And by margin of 49 per cent to 33per cent, Arab American voters said they believe that Biden would be better than the sitting president at improving US relations with the Arab world.

Turnout will be very high in this election with slightly more than 80 per cent of Arab Americans saying they are very likely to vote. Most Democrats say they are either voting early in person or by mail (52 per cent), while most Republicans are waiting until election day to cast their votes (62 per cent). Interestingly, more Trump voters (75 per cent) are concerned that their ballots might not be counted than Biden voters (63 per cent).

The Arab American vote will be most critical in the key battleground states of Michigan (where they can be as much as 5 per cent of the vote), and Ohio and Pennsylvania (where they are between 1.7 to 2 per cent of likely voters).


The writer is president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute

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