Why Arab Americans voted Bush


WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (JTA) – President-elect George W. Bush received the support of the Arab American community in November’s election – and a recently released poll explains why.

Despite the fact that a slight majority of Arab American voters are Democrats, Arab Americans supported Bush for president over his Democratic challenger, Vice President Al Gore, an exit poll released Dec. 13 shows.

About 45 percent of Arab Americans voted for Bush compared with 38 percent for Gore. More than 13 percent voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who is of Lebanese descent, far above Nader’s level of support among the general public.

Primarily, Arab Americans were disappointed by the approach of President Clinton and Gore to Middle East policy, American Arab Institute President James Zogby said.

They also were apparently concerned about the policy positions of vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, an observant Jew.

About 80 percent of those dissatisfied with the Clinton administration’s handling of the Middle East conflict voted for either Bush or Nader. Sixty-nine percent of all those polled said Lieberman’s positions affected their vote.

Much of the Arab world was troubled by the idea of Lieberman serving just a heartbeat away from the presidency. The poll didn’t specify which of Lieberman’s positions made Arab American voters uneasy, however.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 4.5 percent, sampled 505 randomly selected Arab American voters on Nov. 27-29.

Zogby, who served as an adviser on ethnic affairs for the Gore campaign, said Arab Americans reach a consensus on Middle East issues.

Arab Americans tend to vote conservative on social issues and liberal on economic issues, but, like the Jewish electorate, place a high priority on foreign policy.

About three-quarters of those polled said issues such as Palestinian rights, the sovereignty of Lebanon and the fate of Jerusalem were important in their voting consideration.

But Jews, as they generally do, voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

Exit polls by Voter News Service showed that Gore received 79 percent of the Jewish vote, compared with 19 percent for Bush and 1 percent for Nader.

This year’s presidential election was something of a showcase for the growing importance of the Arab American community in American politics. Both major candidates met with Arab American leaders, and Bush picked up endorsements from the community’s organizations.

While the poll did not measure Arab American turnout, it did show increased levels of participation in the form of contributions to candidates and volunteering in campaigns.

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