Bush Losing Arab Voters

By Ori Nir

Published July 25, 2003, issue of July 25, 2003.

WASHINGTON — A new poll is showing a dramatic drop in Arab-American support for President Bush. The poll, conducted by Zogby International, found that if presidential elections were held today, Bush would win only one-third of the overall Arab vote and a mere 10% of the vote among Arab Muslims.

Pollster John Zogby, who conducted the survey, said the results reveal deep discontent among Arab Americans over the administration’s decision to invade Iraq. In a reference to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Zogby also cited what he dubbed the “Ashcroft effect” — the perception among Arab voters that the administration is violating their civil rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

Only 43% of the respondents voiced approval for Bush’s job performance, compared to more than 60% in the general population. The margin of error for the poll, based on surveys with 500 Arab Americans nationwide this month, was 4.5%.

In the 2000 election, Bush captured 45.5% of the Arab vote, compared to 38% for Al Gore and 13.5% for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who is of Lebanese origin. Arab Muslims — about one-fifth of the overall Arab-American population — voted for Bush over Gore by a margin of 58.5% to 22.5%.

The decline in Arab-American support for Bush is significant, said Zogby, particularly in a close election. “In a 50-50 game, every vote counts,” Zogby said — particularly, he added, in key states where many Arab voters reside: Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The poll suggests that Arab Americans are deeply concerned about their civil rights being violated. Thirty percent of the respondents reported having experienced some form of discrimination in the past due to their ethnicity, and 59.5% said that they are worried about the long-term impact of discrimination against Arab-Americans.

Regarding Bush’s Middle East policy, 39% registered a favorable rating and 56% expressed an unfavorable view. Bush’s disapproval ratings last year on the issue among Arabs hovered around 70%. According to Zogby, this improvement can partially be attributed to Bush’s role in promoting the “road map” peace plan, which 74% of those polled said they support.



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