Poll shows majority of Arab-Americans in Michigan back Kerry
9/16/2004, 2:34 p.m. ET
By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN
The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A new poll shows 58 percent of Arab-Americans in Michigan support the Democratic presidential ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards, while 21 percent support Republican President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and 9 percent support independent candidate Ralph Nader, the son of Lebanese immigrants. Twelve percent are undecided.
The poll, released Thursday to The Associated Press, represents a shift since 2000, when more of the state's Arab-Americans supported the Bush-Cheney ticket. Among the 574 Arab-Americans polled Sept. 9 through Wednesday by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA, 54 percent said they voted for Bush in 2000. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
The shift could be particularly important in Michigan, a battleground state now leaning toward Kerry but still being hotly contested by the president. An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Arab-Americans live in Michigan, and while not all of them are old enough to vote, they are a potent political force being courted by both parties.
A separate CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday showed Kerry leading Bush, 50 percent to 44 percent, among 673 likely voters statewide, with Nader getting 1 percent. The Sept. 10-13 poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Despite his falling ratings in the EPIC/MRA poll, Bush still has some potent supporters in the state's Arab-American community. In early July, he attended a $2.5 million fund-raiser at the Bloomfield Hills home of C. Michael Kojaian, who has raised at least $200,000 for the president's campaign.
But the perception that Arab-Americans' civil liberties have been eroded in the post-Sept. 11 political climate and concern over the economy and the Middle East have lost Bush some of his earlier support.
"This is about what we as Arabs can do to make sure that our voices are heard in this country as something other than radicals or Muslim fundamentalists," Ahmed Mustafa, a Syrian-born clerk who works in Dearborn, said earlier this year. "And from what I've seen, it's the Democrats that have at least shown they're interested in listening."
In the Michigan poll, 77 gave Bush a negative job rating, while 22 percent gave him a positive rating and 1 percent were undecided. In a May 2003 poll conducted among Michigan Arab-Americans by EPIC/MRA, 64 percent gave him a negative job rating and 34 percent a positive rating, with 2 percent undecided.
On his handling of the war in Iraq, 77 percent gave him a negative job rating in the latest poll and 19 percent a positive rating, with 4 percent undecided. Bush did far better in the earlier poll, when 50 percent gave him a negative rating on his handling of the war and 45 percent gave him a positive rating, with 5 percent undecided.
"The glow of Iraq, even among Iraqis (in Michigan), is gone," said Ed Sarpolus of EPIC/MRA. "There is no idea now that going to war in Iraq was a good thing."
A majority of Arab-Americans polled — 55 percent — had a favorable opinion of Kerry, while 24 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 19 percent were undecided. In contrast, 25 percent had a favorable opinion of Bush, while 67 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 8 percent were undecided. Voters also had a more favorable opinion of Edwards than of Cheney.
Nationally, 45.5 percent of Arab Americans voted for Bush in 2000, compared to 38 percent for Democrat Al Gore and 13 percent for Nader, who ran in 2000 on the Green Party ticket. Nader and running mate Peter Camejo are on the ballot this year as Reform Party candidates or independents.
Ismael Ahmed, director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Dearborn, said earlier this week that voters should support Kerry, not Nader.
"We need new leadership in this country and in the world and the only way we will get it is by defeating George Bush," Ahmed said, speaking on behalf of some former Nader associates.
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