- Arab-Americans, one of the United States' smallest
ethnic minorities, could well tip the balance against
President George W Bush's re-election, according to a
survey released on Wednesday of four key battleground
states where the vote could be decided.
poll, conducted by Zogby International for the
Washington-based Arab American Institute (AAI), found
that if current opinions hold through November, when the
election takes place, Bush could suffer a net loss of
one-third (170,000) of Arab-American votes in the four
states compared with the 2000 elections, when he won a
solid plurality of those votes.
Such a loss
could prove decisive in the four states - Florida,
Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania - where Bush and
Democratic candidate John Kerry are focusing much of
their early campaign efforts precisely because the races
are expected to be extremely close.
United States, the winner of the presidential balloting
within each state receives all of the state's electoral
votes regardless of the margin of victory. "Anything
that can move thousands - or even hundreds - of votes
can have a seismic effect on the [national] outcome,"
said John Zogby, who conducted the polling.
Numbering at least 3.5 million, Arab-Americans
make up a little over 1 percent of the US population. At
the same time, their voter turnout, which is higher than
that of most other US groups, is expected to hit close
to 2 million this year, or about 1.5 percent of all
But the Arab-American population is also
disproportionately concentrated in a relatively few
states, such as California and New York - where Kerry is
expected to win handily in November - as well as the
four states surveyed in the latest poll.
Pollsters chose the states, both because of
their larger-than-average Arab-American populations, and
because they are four of about a dozen states - most of
them in the Great Lakes region of the north-central US -
where the presidential vote is expected to be
The likely Arab-American
vote (about 235,000) in Michigan represents slightly
more than 5 percent of the overall vote in that state,
according to the Zogby poll. With 120,000 likely votes,
it would account for about 2 percent of the total in
Florida; in Ohio, an estimated 85,000 votes (just under
2 percent); and in Pennsylvania, 75,000 votes, or about
1.6 percent of total votes.
In 2000, Bush beat
Democratic candidate Al Gore by 165,000 votes, while
Gore defeated Bush in both Michigan and Pennsylvania by
slightly more than 200,000 votes in each state. The two
fought to a virtual tie in Florida, whose decisive
electoral votes were eventually awarded to Bush as a
result of a highly controversial Supreme Court ruling.
The poll's sample consisted of 503 Arab-American
residents of the four states who were contacted from a
random list April 22-24. Given the relatively small
sample, the margin of error was plus or minus 4.5
Reflecting the national
Arab-American population, about two-thirds of
respondents were either Catholic or Orthodox, about
one-quarter were Muslim and the remainder were
Protestant. Most Arab-Americans are of Lebanese descent.
The poll was the latest in a series of surveys of
Arab-American opinion dating back some 13 years.
In 2000, Bush, whose outspoken opposition to
ethnic profiling of Arabs and Muslims gained him many
votes among the two groups, beat Gore among
Arab-American voters in the four states by 46 percent to
29 percent, with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who
is of Christian Lebanese descent, receiving 16 percent.
But according to the latest poll, Kerry is in a position
to flip these results completely and would beat Bush 45
percent to 28 percent, with Nader currently running at
When respondents were given a choice
between Bush and Kerry alone, and Nader was not
mentioned, the gap was 49 percent for Kerry and 34
percent for Bush, with 21 percent saying they were
undecided or would vote for someone else.
Support for Kerry was particularly high among
immigrant Arab-Americans who, in a two-way race, said
they would vote by a margin of 60-19 percent for Kerry,
with 21 percent undecided. That compared with a 46-34-21
percent spread for Arab-Americans born in the United
Similarly, support in a two-way race for
Kerry was highest, at 62 percent, among Muslim
Arab-Americans, of whom only 10 percent said they
favored Bush. Among Christian Arab-Americans, Kerry's
lead was significantly less, at only 46-37 percent.
When asked what issues were most likely to
affect their votes, Arab-Americans as a group placed the
economy, health care, terrorism/national security,
education, foreign policy and Iraq in that order, in
percentages that mirror the US electorate as a whole.
But, unlike most of the rest of the electorate, nearly
three-quarters of Arab-American voters ranked
"Israel-Palestine" as an issue that would figure "very
importantly" in their choice.
In that vein,
Kerry's recent support for the Gaza withdrawal plan of
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appears to have cost
him some support among Arab-Americans. Asked which
candidate gave them more confidence for resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only 22 percent chose
Kerry, compared with 16 percent for Bush, who endorsed
Sharon's plan two weeks ago.
of respondents said neither candidate had their
confidence on the question.
who often rate Israel as an important factor in their
vote, constitute about twice as many voters nationwide
as Arab-Americans, although they are also
disproportionately concentrated in a relatively small
number of states, among them New York and California.
Bush won about 19 percent of the Jewish vote, which
traditionally is far more Democratic than any other
single ethnic or religious group except blacks, in 2000.
Bush's political advisers have said they hope
his strong support for Sharon will translate into 40
percent of the Jewish vote in November, but most
analysts think that target is too ambitious. Recent
polls suggest a more realistic figure is 25-31 percent,
which, in numerical terms, would still fall short of
making up for Bush's loss of Arab-American support.
"It's hard for me to see any significant gain
for President Bush among Jewish voters," Zogby told
journalists. The latest poll "offers evidence that any
gains [he makes among Jewish voters] may be canceled out
by significant losses among Arab-American voters".
Kerry, according to the survey, enjoys
substantially greater support among Arab-Americans who
identified themselves as Democrats than Bush enjoys
among self-identified Republican Arab-Americans. On both
Israel-Palestine and civil-liberties issues in
particular, Bush's policies are supported by less than
40 percent of Arab-Americans who call themselves
Republican. "These are core issues where his own party
doesn't support him," Zogby noted.