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Biden's popularity plummets to 18% among Arab American voters over Gaza

The president has lost support with Arab voters in Michigan, Virginia and Pennsylvania over his handling of the Gaza war, according to the Arab American Institute.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Girard College on May 29, 2024, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

US President Joe Biden has lost significant support among Arab American voters over the Gaza war, according to a poll released on Thursday, a development that could propel former President Donald Trump back into the White House.

The Arab American Institute (AAI) released a poll of 900 Arab American voters in four states: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Michigan, Virginia and Pennsylvania are states that Biden won in 2020; they are seen as critical to his victory in the upcoming November presidential election.

The results: AAI found that Biden is losing to Trump among Arab American voters in the four states. According to the results, 32% of voters favor Trump, compared with 18% who prefer Biden.

The figures represent a major dip in support for the current president since the last election cycle. In 2020, Arab voters nationwide favored Biden over Trump 59% to 35%, per the institute.

In AAI’s late October poll, Biden similarly received 17% support nationwide from Arab voters, compared with Trump’s 40%. The October poll was conducted after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that began the Gaza war.

The declining support for Biden is primarily driven by his policies toward Israel amid the Gaza war, according to the AAI. Over 36,000 Palestinians were killed in the war according the Gaza-run health ministry. 

“When given 10 issues and asked to rate which of the three are most important to them, 60% say it is the war in Gaza. In response to another question, 57% also say that Gaza will be ‘very important’ in determining their vote in November,” AAI said.

The institute added that 60% of Arab voters in the four states would be more likely to support Biden if he were to “suspend diplomatic support and arms shipments to Israel until they implement a ceasefire and withdraw forces from Gaza.”

Arab American respondents expressed a sense of apathy about the upcoming election, with 40% saying they are "not enthusiastic at all” about the vote and another 21% saying they are "not really enthusiastic.” Twenty-five percent of voters are not sure whom they will vote for, and another 25% plan to vote for someone other than Biden or Trump.

According to the poll, 12% of Arab American voters in the four states support independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., while 7% support Green Party candidate Jill Stein and 6% Independent Cornel West. Kennedy has expressed support for Israel repeatedly throughout the war, while Stein and West are longtime supporters of the Palestinians.

Why it matters: The reduced Arab American support for Biden in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia could sway an already tight race. Biden won Michigan by just 154,000 votes in 2020. In its report, the AAI noted a “significant potential loss for President Biden of 177,000 votes in these four key states — with 91,000 of this possible loss occurring in Michigan alone.”

Voters in Michigan's large Arab American and Muslim communities in particular have been thrust into the national spotlight since the start of the war. The state is home to more than 390,000 Arab Americans, according to an AAI tabulation of 2020 US Census data. 

The community is centered in the Detroit metropolitan area. In 2023, Dearborn became the first Arab American majority city in the United States. 

In the February Democratic primary, more than 100,00 Michigan voters cast ballots for "uncommitted" in a message of disapproval to Biden. 

Michigan is expected to have a tight race in November. A May poll from Bloomberg noted 46% for Biden and 45% for Trump.

Biden has supported Israel throughout the war but has grown increasingly critical recently of the war effort. On Friday, the US president laid out a 3-part cease-fire plan. In March, the United States abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, allowing the measure to pass. The president also publicly cautioned Israel against an invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, though the operation began earlier this month.

Trump, whose political future is uncertain after a grand jury found him guilty of falsifying business records on Thursday, has doubled down on support for Israel on the campaign trail. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump expressed support for the country's "war on terror" in a meeting with donors earlier this month. 

At the same time, the former president told the Israeli news outlet Israel Hayom in March that Israel needs to “finish up” the war, saying, “Israel has to be very careful because you're losing a lot of the world; you're losing a lot of support.”

Earlier this month, former Trump administration official Richard Grenell and Trump's son-in-law Michael Boulos, of Lebanese descent, met with Arab American leaders in Michigan in an effort to build support for the former president's campaign.  

Know more: AAI estimates there are around 3.7 million Arab Americans in the United States. California has the highest population with more than 530,00 people, followed by Michigan's more than 390,000 and New York's roughly 300,000.