Everything you need to know about the Arab-American vote in the 2024 US election

Small but important voting bloc has expressed frustration with choice between Democratic President Joe Biden and his challenger, Republican Donald Trump

There are an estimated 2.5 million Arab-American voters in the US. Getty Images
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Arab-American voters have been thrust into the spotlight this election year, as the Israel-Gaza war continues.

The small but important voting bloc has expressed frustration with the choice between Democratic President Joe Biden and his challenger, Republican Donald Trump – both of whom have expressed pro-Israel sentiments.

Here, The National details what you need to know about the Arab-American vote this election season:

How many Arab-American voters are there?

There are an estimated 2.5 million Arab-American voters in the US, but it is difficult to know exactly how many, as the US Census has not included a “Middle Eastern and North African” category on its once-a-decade survey of the population.

The next Census in 2030 will feature a Mena option in the race or ethnicity box, which will help better identify the community in the US population.

The Arab American Institute says many current estimates are a “significant undercount” because the 2020 Census relied more on a write-in response or choices in ancestry categories, and the population has since grown.

Where do most Arab Americans live?

The highest number of Arab Americans live in California, with a population of more than 533,000.

At least 392,000 live in Michigan, and about 300,000 live in New York state.

The rest of the Arab population in the US is primarily located on the East Coast, in mid-Atlantic and north-eastern coast states, while many can also be found in Texas and Illinois.

The Arab American Institute says 95 per cent of the population lives in metropolitan areas, with the group making up a significant part of the populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit and Washington.

What has the community's response been to the Israel-Gaza war?

The Arab-American community is frustrated with US support for Israel as it continues its war in Gaza.

People in the community have expressed their anger through protests and speaking out to national leaders as well as the media, while also promising not to support Mr Biden's re-election campaign.

The White House has held several meetings with Arab-American leaders since early October – some have been contentious, while others saw people walk out or reject invitations.

People in the “Arab capital” of America – Dearborn, Michigan – have told Mr Biden he is not welcome in the city.

Feeling unheard amid the conflict, some Palestinian Americans are running for office.

How have Arab Americans voted in the past?

Like any community, Arab Americans are not a monolith, although voters tend to skew Democrat.

An October 2020 poll carried out by Zogby Analytics found that 59 per cent of Arab-American voters said they would vote for Mr Biden, versus 35 per cent for Trump.

Due to the Israel-Gaza war, however, this appears to have changed.

What do Arab Americans think about Biden?

The community's support for Mr Biden has plummeted since October 7, with members disappointed by the US President's stance on Gaza.

An October poll conducted by Zogby Analytics found that only 20 per cent of Arab-American voters would support Mr Biden's re-election this November, down nearly 40 per cent from 2020.

“This is the first time in our 26 years of polling Arab Americans in which a majority of voters do not claim to prefer the Democratic Party,” James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, wrote in an op-ed for The National.

While the voting bloc is relatively small, Arab Americans living in swing states like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania could make a difference in the coming election.

“If the President, even at this late date, were to dramatically change policy on Israel-Gaza, he could win back much of the support he has lost,” the Arab American Institute wrote in a report.

“In two separate questions, when asked if the President were to demand an immediate ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian aid into Gaza or if he were to suspend diplomatic support and arms shipments to Israel until they implement a ceasefire and withdraw forces from Gaza, 60 per cent of Arab Americans say they would be more likely to vote for him in November.”

What do Arab Americans think about Trump?

It is unclear how Trump would handle the Israel-Gaza war if it continues into next year, when the next president will be inaugurated.

Like Mr Biden, Republican Trump has expressed strong support for Israel, even moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem during his presidency.

Early in his term in office, Trump introduced a so-called Muslim ban that prevented citizens from 13 Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

While only a quarter of Arab Americans are Muslim, the ban greatly affected community members with family or connections to countries included in the executive order.

Trump has vowed to bring the ban back if re-elected this November, and has said that he would not welcome refugees from Gaza into the US.

The National published an editorial on how Arab Americans “won't be blackmailed by threats of a Trump presidency” amid the community's protests against Mr Biden's support for Israel.

Recent polls done by Zogby Analytics found that support for Trump remains at about 30 per cent in the Arab-American community, with many looking to third-party candidates.

What is the 'uncommitted' movement?

The movement involves people voting “uncommitted” or leaving their ballots blank during the Democratic primaries to express their discontent with – and the movement goes beyond the Arab-American community.

More than 650,000 Democrats have cast votes against Mr Biden during the primary season, according to Politico.

In an increasingly tight election, every vote counts.

What have Arab-American politicians said about the election?

Abdullah Hammoud, the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, denounced Mr Biden's hopes to gain the Arab-American community's support as the crisis in Gaza worsens.

“I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a live-streamed genocide backed by our government,” he said after cancelling a meeting with Mr Biden's campaign team.

“This is not a moment for electoral politics.”

Mr Hammoud has met members of the Biden administration, however, arguing that these talks are more productive at the current moment than campaign discussions.

In Congress, support for Israel is high, even among Arab-American politicians: Republican representatives including Garret Graves and Darrell Issa have voted on bills backing Israel.

But Palestinian-American Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, expressed strong support for the uncommitted movement in Michigan, which she represents.

Ms Tlaib said that uncommitted voters should still show up on election day in November, and warned Mr Biden about the possibility of losing the Arab-American community's vote.

“I am incredibly, incredibly scared of a second term for Trump,” she said. “Our democracy is at stake and I'm asking the President – and I think many of us are saying – change course, because you're threatening literally our democracy. Please.”

She also criticised the Biden administration and congressional colleagues for negative comments about pro-ceasefire protesters, saying: “We're not going to forget in November, are we?”

Updated: June 10, 2024, 3:00 AM