Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month, public polling has shown Muslim and Arab Americans abandoning President Joe Biden in droves as outrage over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues to rise. The exodus, if sustained, threatens Biden’s chances in 2024 in key swing states where he won by slim margins in 2020.
What You Need To Know
- Public polling has shown Muslim and Arab Americans abandoning President Joe Biden in droves as outrage over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues to rise
- The exodus, if sustained, threatens Biden’s chances in 2024 in key swing states where he won by slim margins in 2020
- Biden has continuously restated his support for Israel’s war on Hamas, lamenting the thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza without applying public pressure for the bombings to stop, though he has begun calling for a humanitarian pause
- One new survey from Democratic pollster Lake Research Partners found just 16% of Arab and Muslim Democrats in the key swing state of Michigan would vote for Biden if the 2024 election was held today
Biden has continuously restated his support for Israel’s war on Hamas, lamenting the thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza without applying public pressure for the bombings to stop, though he has begun calling for a humanitarian pause. He and his administration have argued that Israel is acting on its right to defend themselves in their pursuit of eradicating Hamas and that the scores of civilian deaths in Gaza, where the CIA says 40% of residents are under the age of 14, are a tragic byproduct of war.
But Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as progressives and pro-Palestinian Democrats, have repeatedly warned Biden that calls for a “humanitarian pause” to deliver aid and evacuate civilians before resuming the siege is far too short of what is needed to address the crisis – over 10,000 have died in Gaza since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, killing 1,400 people.
“Like many progressive Democrats, I have been pleasantly surprised by the president’s actions on climate, the economy and student debt,” wrote Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid, who has worked with progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in an MSNBC op-ed on Monday. “Over the past few weeks, I’ve been inundated with messages from Muslim and Arab Americans and from millennial organizers who powered movements like the anti-Iraq War protests, Black Lives Matter and the Green New Deal, and who helped turn out the vote for Democrats in 2020 and 2022… they’re done with the Democratic Party.”
“Some note, of course, that Trump is even more bigoted against this community," Shahid continued. "This is unquestionably true. But Biden is the incumbent and the Democratic Party at least purports to be the party of multicultural, tolerant democracy."
One recent survey from the well-credentialed Democratic pollster Lake Research Partners, who has worked with Biden in the past, found just 16% of Arab and Muslim Democrats in the key swing state of Michigan would vote for the president if the 2024 election was held today, according to NBC News. Biden won the state by 150,000 votes against then-President Donald Trump, the 2024 GOP frontrunner, in 2020. Michigan is home to over 200,000 Muslim voters and around 200,000 Arab Americans.
Another poll from the Arab American Institute published last week surveyed 500 Arab Americans and reported that 17% said they would support Biden in 2024, down from 59% who supported him in 2020. Trump received 40% support in the poll, followed by “not sure” at 25.1%, independent candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 13.7% and Cornel West at 3.8%. Arab Americans identifying as a Democrat dropped 17% since April, according to the poll and 31% now identify as independent, the highest number since the poll began tracking voters in 1996.
“There has been a dramatic decline in Arab American support for President Joseph Biden and that his handling of Israel’s continued devastation of Gaza is the reason for this shift in attitudes,” wrote James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute who has been working with his pollster brother John Zogby to track their community’s political opinions for decades. “Arab Americans may not be as numerous as some other constituencies, but their hundreds of thousands of voters in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were actively courted by the 2020 Biden campaign. For him to win them back in 2024 will be an uphill climb.”
Biden won Pennsylvania by around 80,000 votes in 2020, Wisconsin by over 20,000 votes, Georgia by about 12,000, and Arizona by over 10,000 votes. Tens of thousands of Arab Americans live in each of those states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents support a ceasefire and the Biden administration using its diplomatic leverage to “prevent further violence and civilian deaths” in Gaza, according to an October poll of over 1,300 likely voters from the left-wing firm Data for Progress.
“Mr. President, the American people are not with you on this one,” said Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, in a video she posted on social media on Friday. “We will remember in 2024.”
The video, interspersed with protest footage from across the U.S. and videos of bloodied children in Gaza, ends with text on a black background stating “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
“The American people won’t forget,” the text continues. “Biden, support a ceasefire now, or don’t count on us in 2024.”
Tlaib represents part of Detroit and the surrounding areas, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the U.S. She is among the 18 congressional Democrats to call for a cease-fire so far, including the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois.
But the Biden administration continues to defer to Israel and resist calls for a cease-fire, including from the thousands who flooded into Washington on Saturday for what was likely the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in U.S. history. Four days after the violence began, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described calls for a cease-fire in Gaza and cutting off military aid to Israel as “repugnant” and “disgraceful.”
“In a situation in which a terrorist group takes 200 hostages and kills 1,400 people and is hiding under tunnels, including the leaders, a cease-fire is just not really the word — the word to use,” a senior administration official said on a press call on Friday. “A cease-fire, I think, depends on the Israelis feeling secure and ensuring that something like this cannot happen again.”
More than 10,000 people have died in Gaza, including over 4,000 children, according to the Ministry of Health there. The ministry is run by Hamas — the terrorist group controls much of the infrastructure in Gaza — but international entities like the United Nations and Human Rights Watch have long trusted the numbers and even Israel has reported similar totals in past wars.
Biden said on Sunday progress was being made on negotiating a humanitarian pause with Israel and the White House said on Monday he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “discussed the possibility of tactical pauses to provide civilians with opportunities to safely depart from areas of ongoing fighting, to ensure assistance is reaching civilians in need, and to enable potential hostage releases.”
While the Lake Research poll released on Monday included a relatively small sample size of less than 500 likely Democratic voters — the margin of error for the Arab and Muslim Democrats was nearly 10% — other polling has shown a broader trend of Biden’s poll numbers slipping in a potential rematch with Trump.
Polls conducted by the New York Times and Siena College released on Sunday and Monday found Trump with substantial leads over Biden in five battleground states: Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The polling sent shockwaves through Democratic politics, reigniting concerns that Biden’s low approval numbers with voters and concerns about his age will be too difficult to overcome in the year until November 2024.
“It's very late to change horses; a lot will happen in the next year that no one can predict & Biden's team says his resolve to run is firm,” wrote David Axelrod, the architect of President Barack Obama presidential campaigns, of the New York Times/Siena College polling. “But the stakes of miscalculation here are too dramatic to ignore.”