While some might consider the shared party affiliation irreconcilable, both Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans historically vote overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats. During the last presidential election, Barack Obama garnered 67 percent of the Arab-American vote and 74 percent of the Jewish American vote, respectively. This election season, however, the president has fallen somewhat out of favor with both demographic contingents, ironically for very different reasons.
Nonetheless, the former community organizer can rest assured that he will still garner just over half of the Arab vote and well over half (most polls indicate at least 60 percent but a more realistic number is likely 68 percent) of the Jewish vote come Tuesday.
According to recent poll conducted by the Arab American Institute, 52 percent of Arab Americans support President Barack Obama’s reelection bid while 16 percent remain undecided. When it boils down to key swing states, those votes (some 100,000 lighter than in 2008) could make all the difference, pushing Mitt Romney over the edge. The Republican only enjoys the backing of a mere 28 percent of Arab-Americans, which is represented in good degree across several swing states like Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Ironically, despite Obama’s chilly relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and despite the debacle at the recent Democratic National Convention in which an amendment was introduced to omit language declaring Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state, a key gripe among Arab-Americans is its view that the administration “blindly supports” Israel. The fact that Obama will only lose roughly ten percentage-points at most when it comes to the Jewish vote this time around indicates that Jewish Americans likely feel the same way.
Arab Americans also claim to harbor resentment at being “political outcasts” since the 9/11 attack.
“Candidates often resist speaking at Arab-American events,” Safa Rifka, chairman of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee told Al Monitor. “When it comes to our position on foreign policy issues, the candidates don’t want to hear it.”
“I would challenge anyone who says Arab-Americans can’t impact the results in this election — because they can, and they have.” She went on to explain that Arab-Americans’ political strength is manifest in their “dynamism” and “maturity as a political community.”
Obama was propelled to victory in 2008 by turning out an unprecedented number of women and minority votes, including those from Arab, Jewish, Hispanic and African American communities. Coupled with the enthusiasm of the youth vote, the then-fledgling senator from Illinois who represented a new era and face of politics was guaranteed a place in the Oval Office.
Those demographics, however, are simply not as energized as they were four years ago and various polls conducted throughout the course of the campaign has proven as much. What’s more, a number of major strategists have indicated that Obama would need to garner the same level of minority support this time around to secure his reelection — and that is something that the numbers just don’t seem to indicate he will achieve.