Posted on November 02, 1998 in Washington Watch

As an American political constituency, Arab Americans have two major sets of issues that drive the community’s agenda: civil rights and U.S. policy in the Middle East. This was one of the findings of a poll just completed by the Arab American Institute (AAI) and ANA Television Network, Inc.

The AAI/ANA poll randomly surveyed 454 Arab American registered voters from across the United States. It was conducted between October 23 and October 27 and had a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Because Arab Americans retain strong personal ties with the Arab World, Middle East issues are of great importance to the community. Of those polled, one-third were born in the Middle East, two-thirds still have family and friends in the region and two-thirds have traveled to the Middle East.

As a result, 64 percent of Arab Americans stated that how congressional and senate candidates stand on Middle East issues is important to winning their support.

When asked to evaluate the importance of a number of foreign policy issues, the Arab American voters responded as follows:

(Important / Not Important)
1. The Rights of Palestinians 85.5 / 3.5
2. Protecting Lebanese Sovereignty 84 / 10.5
3. Human Rights in the Arab World 80 / 7.5
4. The Status of Jerusalem 75 / 11

As the numbers indicate, Arab Americans have strong views, as well, about a number of critical Middle East issues.

In addition to the data above, the poll also shows that 80 percent of Arab Americans agree that there should be a Palestinian state, with only 12 percent disagreeing. At the same time 74 percent feel that Israel has a right to exist, with only 14 percent disagreeing. There is a strong consensus (cutting across all the different component groups within the community) on this issue and the issues of Palestinian rights, Jerusalem, Lebanon and human rights in the Arab World. The only issue on which there is not a community-wide consensus is on the question of ending the economic sanctions against Iraq. On this issue 46 percent of the Arab Americans polled would agree with ending the sanctions while 42 percent would not.

With regard to U.S. policy in the Middle East, 72.5 percent feel that the policy is biased toward Israel. A slightly more positive view is held of the Clinton Administration’s handling of the Middle East peace negotiations. Fifty-three percent hold a favorable view of the Administration’s work, while 31 percent do not.

The AAI/ANA poll also found that civil rights concerns were high on the Arab American agenda in 1998. Among the issues that the Arab American voters ranked as important were:

(Important / Not Important)
a) Civil Rights of Arab Americans 91 / 3.5
b) Keeping Immigration Open & Fair 82.5 / 4.5
c) Supporting Arab Americans in Elections 76 / 8

The civil rights issue ranks the highest possibly because the poll shows that a disturbingly large number of Arab Americans (31 percent) responded that they “have been discriminated against because of their ancestry.”

The AAI/ana poll also asked Arab Americans to indicate political party registration and party preference in the upcoming election. Thirty-seven percent of the Arab Americans polled were registered Democrats, 24 percent were Republicans and 15 percent declared themselves Independent. However, when asked how they intended to vote in this year’s congressional elections, 53 percent indicated preference for a Democratic candidate while only 29 percent supported a Republican.

The Arab American voters polled have strong views on the current crisis in Washington, expressing support for the President in numbers roughly paralleling the rest of the U.S. public.

Thirty-eight percent say that the President should be left alone, while 19 percent say that the President should be censured but remain in office. Thus, a total of 57 percent would see the President finishing his term. This contrasts favorably with the 37.5 percent who indicated a desire to see the President removed from office (21% favoring impeachment and 16.5% percent favoring resignation).

***

In attempting to assist Arab American voters make their 1998 vote an educated one, the Arab American Institute published a Congressional Score Card this year. The score card presents the records of every member of Congress including all 435 members of the House on nine key domestic and foreign policy issues of importance to the community. More than 40 of the members have extremely positive records and most of them come from districts where there are strong Arab American voter concentrations and where Arab Americans are active in politics.

Arab Americans can have their concerns met and play a positive role in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East–but to do so they must continue to bring those concerns into the electoral politics of America as they will on November 3.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

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