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The Division among Arab Americans in the 2020 Election

posted on: Jun 24, 2020

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Lucas Sankey.  

By MacKenzie DiLeo/Arab America Contributing Writer

It has proven difficult to find a poll that accurately reflects the political beliefs of Arab Americans. Specifically when it comes to their party affiliation and who they voted for in recent elections. The assumption is that Arab Americans are mostly left-wing voters, as are other minority communities within the United States. However, to say that all Arab Americans are Democrats could be an oversight. Especially given the varying demographics of Arab Americans living in the country, their different cultural backgrounds, and their financial well-being. This suggests there could be an apparent division among Arab Americans, which could become more prevalent in the upcoming presidential election. To suggest that a majority of Arab Americans support one party is essentially saying that most Caucasians support one party, which we obviously know is not the case. However, just how much of a division is there among Arab Americans in the political arena?

Photo courtesy of Andres Kudacki from AP.

The Division with Democrats versus Republicans

According to a poll from FiveThirtyEight, it was confirmed that generally more Arab Americans identify as Democrat than they do Republican or Independent. Of the 502 participants, 52% self-identified as Democrat, 26% as Republican, and 22% as Independent. This resembles statistics from other minority populations in the country. One would likely assume that this has a lot to do with Donald Trump’s harsh opinions toward immigrants and minority communities. Specifically his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Interestingly enough, however, approximately 77% of the Arab Americans who identified as Republican in the same poll from FiveThirtyEight said they also supported Donald Trump. So, why is it that some Arab Americans fear facing discrimination due to their ethnicity under the president, while others seemingly support his rhetoric?

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Roya Ann Miller.

The Division with being Pro-Trump or Anti-Trump

While it is hard to speak on behalf of all Arab Americans, most will vote against President Trump in the upcoming election as his policies have estranged the community to a large extent. Before his election in 2016, the Arab American sector remained fairly split in terms of party affiliation with Democrats versus Republicans. However, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has curtailed support from many in the community and has caused many to convert to the left-wing. Because his policy plans have seemingly alienated the community rather than supporting it. It is fair to say that most Arab Americans are against Trump. Nevertheless, what about the percentage that isn’t?

According to USA Today, while 60% of Arab American voters backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, 26% voted for Trump. This was primarily due to their lack of support for Clinton and the values of the Democratic Party at large. Given their cultural background and financial status, certain Arab Americans remain rooted in Republican values. When asked why in a survey, these individuals responded that their primary concerns with the Democratic party dealt with their values regarding jobs and the economy. That being said, it is hard to say whether Arab Americans voted for Trump; Did they truly support him or rather were so against Clinton and the Democratic Party that they felt he was their only option? This idea of voting for the “lesser of two evils” was actually a trend across many voters in the recent election, not just within minority communities.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen.

How do Arab Americans feel about other Candidates?

Prior to Bernie Sanders dropping out of the presidential race in April, many Arab Americans sided with the senator from Vermont. For the most part, Arab Americans have positive regard for Sanders’ policy goals. While not all Arab Americans supported Sanders as the Democratic nominee (some even preferring Donald Trump). Sanders’ success with the Arab American community stems from his 2016 campaign efforts, specifically in Michigan. Sanders met with Arab-American activists and advocates and even ran ads in Arabic.

Joe Biden has also drafted a plan to help Muslim Americans in specific. This plan consists of protecting Muslim American constitutional and civil rights, honoring the diversity of Muslim American communities, ensuring adequate healthcare, and more. While the plan makes the candidate seem as though he is generally concerned about the well-being of the community, the plans are a bit vague. They are also specifically targeting the Islamic sector of the Arab American community, which is not entirely inclusive. While it is tough to gauge the community’s opinion on the candidate right now, time will tell if Arab Americans will feel he is the “lesser of two evils” when running against President Trump in the upcoming election.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Element5 Digital.

Division in the 2020 Election

The Arab American political stance seems to be circumstantial, specifically given the terms and policies a candidate has laid out for the Arab American community. While there are no guarantees, it seems that the general Arab American population will gear toward voting for the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, in the upcoming race. Despite the percentage of Arab Americans who continue to support President Trump, his anti-Muslim rhetoric does not seem promising enough to gain the Arab American majority vote in the coming election.


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