Support for President Biden among Arab Americans has plummeted in the wake of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a new survey released by the non-partisan Arab American Institute.
The survey of 500 Arab Americans found a 42 percent decrease in those who say they approve of the president’s performance, a “shocking decline,” according to pollster James Zogby.
“The dissatisfaction with President Biden is really quite significant,” noted Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, which has been polling Arab Americans for more than three decades. “His numbers are dangerously low. More so than I have ever seen for a Democratic candidate.”
A new poll finds a majority of Arab Americans are turning against Biden in the aftermath of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Of the approximately 3.5 million Arab American voters in the U.S., many are concentrated in key swing states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, states that played decisive roles in Biden’s 2020 election win and will again be critical in 2024.
Down from 59 percent to 17 percent
Among the poll’s top line findings: Just 17 percent of respondents expressed support for Biden, down from 59 percent in 2020, while only 23 percent identified as Democrats, compared to 32 percent who identified as Republicans. That’s a monumental shift in party affiliation from 2016, when Democrats outnumbered Republicans by two-to-one. And for the first time ever Independents outnumbered Democrats.
“I don’t know how you get that back easily,” noted Zogby in an online briefing announcing the findings. “I don’t expect them to be voting for Trump, but it will take something to get them to the polls in the first place.”
Zogby explained that as recently as April, Arab American attitudes generally tracked declining enthusiasm for Biden – whose overall approval rating stands at just 37 percent – despite the country’s solid economic growth and continued job gains.
“Right now, they are God awful,” he said.
And the reason: Two-thirds of respondents disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict, many seeing a clear double standard in the president’s defense of Israel following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack – which claimed some 1,400 lives, many of them civilians – and his silence on the violence now being unleashed by Israel on Gaza, where, according to some estimates upwards of 8,000 have been killed, many of them children.
For Zogby, the poll’s key takeaway is the dramatic drop in support for Biden among Arab Americans across every group – regardless of religious affiliation or national origin – “in just a couple of weeks”, pointing to the widespread dissatisfaction over his handling of the conflict.
“They were traumatized by this,” Zogby said. “As traumatized as they were with Donald Trump’s behavior, as traumatized as I have seen them be” with the invasion of Iraq and even further back with the war in Lebanon more than four decades ago.
Jamal Dajani is an award-winning producer and journalist and host of the show Arab Talk Radio. Currently in Egypt, he calls Biden’s dismal 17 percent approval shown in the poll “an exaggerated figure.”
“I don’t know a single Arab American who would vote for Biden, after his statements demonizing Palestinians and giving Israel the green light to commit genocide in Gaza,” Dajani said. “His warmongering stance and indifference to Palestinian civilians’ lives will also hurt the Democratic Party.”
Dajani points to the vocal support for Palestinians seen across college campuses in the U.S. and among diverse ethnic groups – both key constituencies for the Democratic Party – which see the conflict in relation to recent social justice movements here in the U.S.
Pro-Palestinian protests, meanwhile, have swept much of the country as well nations in Europe, where officials have sought to tamp down or outright ban voices sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism
The conflict has also raised once again the specter of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the U.S., where recent FBI data show an alarming 36 percent spike in anti-Semitic attacks in 2022, along with rises in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab attacks.
There is growing concern that the ongoing violence in the Middle East could exacerbate these trends. According to the Arab American Institute’s findings, 78 percent of respondents said they are worried about anti-Arab bigotry, while 67 percent also expressed concerns over rising anti-Semitism.
“They are sensitive to the fact that the violence and the backlash could affect both communities,” said Zogby, adding that the difference between this moment and past years – including in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the explicit anti-Muslim tenor of those years – is that this time it is “about Palestine, and it is about Palestinians.”
As for what the Biden team can do to turn things around, Zogby offers this sober assessment.
“When there is such a drop, something has to be done to repair the damage. The U.S. can’t change Netanyahu from a frog to a prince,” Zogby explained, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “What it can do is change the way it behaves.”
– Ethnic Media Services. Edited for style.