Dr. James J. Zogby
President Arab American Institute
When they go to the polls to cast their ballot for President of the United States, 59% of Arab Americans say they will vote for Democratic candidate Joseph Biden with only 35% 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 favorably by 74% of Arab American voters and unfavorably by only 25%, while President Trump’s favorable/unfavorable ratio is a lukewarm 48% to 51%. Even a majority (55%) of Arab American Republicans have a favorable view of Biden.
One of the few positive signs for Donald Trump is the fact that he has galvanized 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% Democrat/33% Republican split among Arab American voters represents a narrowing of the gap between the two parties. The partisan divide of 40% to 38% in 2000 had grown each election cycle since then. By 2016, it had become 52% to 26%. Today’s party identification numbers are similar to 2002 and 2004 when it was 39% to 31%.
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% to 25%, 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% to 43%), Muslims (60% to 30%), and naturalized citizens (64% to 23%). Where Biden’s margins are largest are among younger Arab American voters (67% to 27%) and senior citizens (66% to 26%).
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, 40% 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%), health care (21%), the environment and climate change (17%), and Social Security and Medicare (10%). On all of these issues, except for “jobs and the economy,” Biden was favored over Trump by a significant margin.
The issue of deteriorating race relations looms large for Arab American voters with 70% saying they have a positive view of the nationwide demonstrations supporting Black lives and 74% 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% of Arab American voters. But when it comes to identifying their major issues of concern in the Middle East, 45% 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% to 33%, 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% of Arab Americans saying they are very likely to vote. Most Democrats say they are either voting early in person or by mail (52%), while most Republicans are waiting until election day to cast their votes (62%). Interestingly, more Trump voters (75%) are concerned that their ballots might not be counted than Biden voters (63%).
The Arab American vote will be most critical in the key battleground states of Michigan (where they can be as much as 5% of the vote), and Ohio and Pennsylvania (where they are between 1.7 to 2% of likely voters).