Posted by Newsmax on October 27, 2012 in News Clips
Prominent Middle East expert Dr. James Zogby tells Newsmax that President Obama is polling about 18 percent below his 2008 numbers among Arab-American voters.
But those Arab-Americans who are Muslims now “overwhelmingly” support the Democratic candidate compared to four years ago, he adds.
Zogby also discloses that Arab-Americans across the board consider jobs and the economy as the most important issue in this year’s elections.
Zogby is founder and president of the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C.–based organization that serves as a political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community, and author of the book “Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why it Matters.”
Watch the exclusive interview here.
The Arab American Institute and JZ Analytics has just polled Arab-American voters in the key swing states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, and found that they favor Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 52 percent to 28 percent.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Zogby was asked if they will turn out for Obama in November.
“Certainly the president’s lead is significant in this poll, but there are still 15, 16 percent undecided,” he says.
“That is a performance gap for the president. He needs to win those 15 or 16 percent in order to match the total, almost 70 percent, of the community that he got in 2008.
“The question is do we believe the polling that’s out right now and does it hold? These 10-point gaps that are appearing in polls between Obama and Romney in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida seem very large. I would bet that the Democrats are excited about it. I would assume that Republicans are, at best, quizzical; at worst, depressed about it.”
Arab-Americans in those five swing states number about 1.1 million, and 833,000 are eligible voters. Zogby was asked if this voting bloc could prove crucial in the election.
“My sense is that this is going to be a close election and so every community matters, and Arab-Americans are one of those communities that will matter. Every vote is going to count and we’re going to stay with it until we see where this vote turns out on Election Day.”
Asked to name the two top issues facing the United States, 27 percent of respondents cited foreign policy “but 80 percent-plus said the economy was their number one concern,” says Zogby, and they gave Obama very strong support on that issue.
“Here’s my sense: Arab-Americans are supportive of the president. They’re disappointed in some of the policies of the president, disappointed in his Middle East policy to be sure. But the Republican side hasn’t given them any reason to reconsider their support.
“So they’re disappointed, maybe, in one side but they’re pretty much turned off by the other side. What we’re left with is a rock-solid Republican core — 20 or so percent of the Arab-American community is committed Republican but more than two times that are committed Democrats. They’re supporting Obama, they still want to believe that he’ll make change, they haven’t seen it, they’re a little disappointed but they’re very turned off by the approach that’s been taken by Mitt Romney and by what has become the mainstream in the Republican Party. The message has not been inviting to Arab-Americans.”
Arab-American Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. Zogby was asked what role faith plays in their political affiliations.
“The community is about 70 percent Christian overall, about 30 percent Muslim,” he tells Newsmax.
“The Muslim component is overwhelmingly, right now, in the Democratic camp. That was not the case in 2000, when they were split between the two. In fact, overall, back in 2000 and throughout the ‘90s, the community leaned Democratic, like many ethnic communities, by a two or three percent margin. That was the case with Irish, Polish, Italian, etc., and Arab-Americans were no different.
“But beginning in 2002, that gap began to open up, reaching its peak in 2008, settled down a bit in 2010, and it is still more than two to one Democratic in 2012.
“The reasons are not so much faith as that the Republican Party has just turned them off, especially on the Muslim side, when you have everything from loyalty oaths in the Republican debate, whether Muslims should take an extra loyalty oath; the notion that you never met a Middle East country that you didn’t want to bomb; the very hard line on almost every issue involving the Middle East. Those things resonate not only with the Muslim part of the community, but with the broader community that recognized it as kind of intolerance and it scared them.
“This is not the Republican Party of George Herbert Walker Bush or James Baker anymore and people recognize that. That’s the problem.” The poll shows a growing percentage of independent voters among Arab-Americans.
Zogby comments: “The independent base has grown as Democrats and Republicans are now divided by a more than two to one margin. Over a quarter of the community right now considers itself independent. They can be attracted to a Republican candidate but the Republican Party has to have a message that reaches them.
“Right now, it does not have a message that reaches them. It’s hostile on Middle East issues, hostile on the civil rights of people of Arab descent, very hostile on issues involving Islam and the Muslim community, and that’s not a winning formula to get votes.”