Washington, DC – Arab American support for United States President Joe Biden has plummeted to an all-time low of 17 percent as he continues to back the Israeli offensive in Gaza, according to a new survey.
The study, released on Tuesday by the Arab American Institute (AAI) think tank, showed a staggering 42-percent drop in support among Arab American communities since 2020, the year of Biden’s election.
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Respondents also overwhelmingly said they had a negative attitude towards Biden with his approval rating tumbling to 29 percent, an 18-percent drop since April.
James Zogby, AAI’s president, described the findings as “dramatic”.
“The dissatisfaction with President Biden is really quite significant,” Zogby said during a virtual briefing. “His numbers are dangerously low, more so than I’ve ever seen for a Democratic candidate for president.”
The study was conducted last week, surveying 500 Arab American respondents.
We did a special poll of #ArabAmericans since latest outbreak of violence in Palestine/Israel. Consistent with many other voters, poll shows overwhelming opposition to response to crisis. Support for @POTUS Biden has dropped from 59% in 2020 to 17% today.https://t.co/aD6pl1EaD2 pic.twitter.com/0pwbudYNRk
— Arab American Institute (@AAIUSA) October 31, 2023
The new data coincides with Biden’s commitment to “rock-solid and unwavering support” for Israel, as it continues a military operation in Gaza that has killed more than 8,500 Palestinians since October 7.
The Democratic US president is running for reelection, and while the vote is not until November of next year, many Palestinian, Arab and Muslim American advocates have pledged not to back him over his stance on the war.
Suehaila Amen — an Arab American activist in Michigan, a state that is home to a large Arab community — told Al Jazeera earlier this week that the growing anger towards the president will likely be felt at the ballot box in 2024.
“We are witnessing a massacre taking place before our very eyes, with the US leadership having absolutely no remorse or compassion or a shared sense of humanity for what’s happening,” Amen said.
The US provides Israel with more than $3.8bn in military funding each year, but since the war began, Biden has pledged to provide Israel with further assistance, including ammunition and other weapons. The White House has also requested $14bn in additional assistance to Israel from Congress this month.
In addition, critics have said that the Biden administration has alienated Arab American voters by failing to mention — or even dismissing — the Palestinian plight.
“This is war. It is combat. It is bloody. It is ugly. And it’s going to be messy, and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said last week.
Biden has questioned the number of Palestinians killed in the conflict, saying that he has “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using”. And his office has been accused of conflating calls for a ceasefire with anti-Semitism.
One example came on Monday, when White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to a question about “anti-Israel” demonstrations by drawing a parallel to 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“What I can say is we’ve been very clear about this: When it comes to anti-Semitism, there is no place,” she said, without explicitly mentioning the protests. “We have to make sure that we speak against it very loud and be very clear about that. Remember, when the president decided to run for president is what he saw in Charlottesville in 2017.”
Since the start of the war in Gaza, other public opinion surveys have also shown dissatisfaction with Biden’s handling of the crisis.
For example, while the US has firmly resisted calls to end the fighting, a poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress showed that most US voters — including an overwhelming majority of Democrats — favour backing a ceasefire in Gaza.
Overall, 66 of respondents said the US should push for a ceasefire. That included 80 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans. That poll surveyed 1,329 likely voters.
— Data for Progress (@DataProgress) October 20, 2023
Last week, a Gallup poll also showed that Biden’s approval dropped 11 percentage points among voters from his own Democratic Party.
It went from 86 percent in September to 75 percent this month. The US president’s overall job approval rating was 37 percent.
In a statement announcing the poll’s findings, Gallup noted the war in Gaza as a contributing factor. “Biden has faced criticism from some members of his party for aligning too closely with Israel and not doing enough for the Palestinians,” it said.
Analysts have warned that Biden’s staunch support for Israel could alienate progressive and young voters, hurting his re-election chances in 2024.
As for Arab Americans, Zogby said on Tuesday that Palestinian rights remain a top issue for them — something that the Biden administration appears to not understand.
“Palestine remains the wound in the heart that doesn’t heal. It is as emotionally important to people of Arab descent as Wounded Knee was to Native Americans,” he said, referring to the 1890 massacre of Indigenous people in South Dakota.
“That cannot be forgotten. This is a symbol of a hurt. And it’s real, and people react viscerally to it.”