How risky for Biden is Arab American anger over Israel?


Washington Post columnist Shadi Hamid observed something while at home over the Thanksgiving break: Several Arab relatives told him that they would not support President Biden’s reelection next year because of his response to the Gaza war. They wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump, should he be the Republican nominee — they just don’t plan to vote for president at all.

MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan indicated that he’d heard similar rumblings.

“Dems need to understand that the anger is very real,” he wrote on social media.

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The Democrats responsible for Biden’s reelection campaign were probably already aware of the unhappiness. At the end of October, NBC News looked at the frustrations of Muslims and Arab Americans over Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Even then, the anger was obviously not manifesting simply at the individual level but also at an institutional one, with community leaders indicating they and their organizations would withhold support for the Democratic incumbent.

The obvious question that arises is whether the evaporation of this support could shift the 2024 presidential election results. It’s a question that’s worth trying to answer if only because of how it reflects the Democratic coalition — but it’s also a question that elevates a more important worry for the political left.

The Census Bureau estimates that, as of the 2020 Census, there were about 3.5 million people in the United States of Middle Eastern or North African descent. This category, often referred to with the shorthand “MENA,” is necessarily overly broad for the question at hand, and includes individuals from a sweeping range of cultural and national backgrounds.

It’s also imperfect because the bureau doesn’t track MENA as a separate racial category. It had planned to, introducing the category on the 2020 questionnaire. That change was spiked by the Trump administration.

Using the bureau’s 2020 estimates by county, we see that counties with higher percentages of MENA residents were generally more likely to support Biden in the 2020 election. On average, counties that backed Biden that year had twice the density of MENA residents as those that backed Trump.

That’s only among counties where the number of MENA-descended residents was measurable. Trump won by 40 points in counties where the number of MENA residents was too small for the bureau to break out. The counties with measurable MENA populations but at the lowest density also backed Trump by 27 points. The higher the density of MENA residents, though, the greater the swing to the left. The fifth of counties with the highest percentages of measured MENA residency backed Biden by 26 points.

But this doesn’t mean that those places are more heavily Democratic because of their higher populations of MENA residents. The counties with the highest densities of MENA residents are heavily urban, places that Democrats win in general. More than 101 million people live in urban counties that are in the upper half of…



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