Biden’s Migraine: Arab/Muslim Voters Amidst Israel’s Warand Surging Student Protests


Escalating tensions and violence resulting from the Israel war on Gaza are having a significant impact on Arab and Muslim American communities. The Biden administration’s handling of the conflict has been perceived by Arab and Muslim communities as fuelling hatred against them. As a consequence of this war, there has been a notable increase in Islamophobia and Arab hatred, among other forms of hatred, such as antisemitism within American society. There have been several incidents since the war broke out such as the killing of a six-year-old Palestinian American child in a suspected hate crime near Chicago, reflecting the fears of attacks on Palestinian, Arab and Muslim American communities in the United States due to the media’s dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims in the context of Israel’s war on Gaza. 

Undeniably, there is growing frustration and concern among Arab Americans regarding the conflict, with tensions running high. According to a survey conducted by the Arab American Institute (AAI), Arab American support for President Joe Biden dropped after the war broke out on October 7, 2023, to an all-time low of 17% due to his backing of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. This represents a significant decrease from the 59% support Biden had in 2020. 

The Arab American Civil Rights League reports growing frustration among Arab Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, as the situation continues to escalate. 

Arab Americans are demanding that the Biden administration takes concrete steps to address the situation in Gaza, including supporting an immediate ceasefire, stopping military funding to Israel, providing aid to Palestinians, and fighting anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian hate. 

The discontent among Arab American and Muslim voters in swing state Michigan could pose a challenge for Biden in the upcoming presidential election. Polls indicate that both Arab American and Muslim voters have generally leaned toward the Democratic Party, but there has been some fluctuation in support between elections.  Issues such as the economy and responses to international conflicts have influenced these voters’ political preferences. Nevertheless, Arab American and Muslim voters could play a decisive role in the election outcome, particularly in a closely contested state like Michigan.

Michigan is identified as a critical battleground state that could play a decisive role in the presidential election due to its 15 Electoral College votes. Biden won Michigan in the 2020 election by a narrow margin and an “uncommitted’ campaign” has raised concerns regarding his support in the state. 

A significant number of Arab American and predominantly Muslim voters in Michigan chose to mark the “uncommitted” box on the ballot paper during the primaries. This campaign aimed to protest against US support for the Israeli military and advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

According to figures from the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), over 94% of historically Democrat-supporting Muslims voted “uncommitted” in the primaries. The poll also revealed that a significant portion of Muslim voters would support third party candidates or even Republican candidates like Donald Trump over Biden. More than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters chose to vote “uncommitted” in the race. 

Some analysis touches upon the challenges of accurately capturing data on Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans due to the way they are categorized in official statistics. These communities are often subsumed within broader categories like “white” or “other non-Christian,” making it difficult to track their attitudes and behaviors accurately through polls and surveys. 

Within the past month, student protests against US support for Israel’s war on Gaza have spread rapidly across over 200 campuses. The establishment of protest encampments on campuses indicates a high level of student engagement and activism. The diverse composition of the protesting students, including Arab American students as well as students from various racial and religious backgrounds, showcases broad-based support for the protests.

The protesting students have been disciplined and eloquent in their demands for a ceasefire and an end to the genocide in Gaza. They have also called for universities to divest funds from entities supporting the Israeli war effort, showcasing a clear agenda and purpose behind the protests. However, accusations of antisemitism have been used to discredit the protests and pressure university administrations to disrupt these protests. 

A comparison is drawn between the current student protests and the anti-Vietnam war protests of 1968, which suggests potential similarities in terms of political impact on the upcoming election. However, some analysts suggest that while the current protests are significant, they may not have a radical impact on voter attitudes, especially compared to historical protests like those during the Vietnam era. They suggest that issues like the economy, cost of living and gun violence remain top concerns for voters across age groups, indicating that the impact of the protests may be limited in swaying electoral decisions. 

Nonetheless, a dismissive attitude from Biden’s administration toward student protests could be a dangerous miscalculation with potentially negative implications for Biden’s re-election bid or for Democratic Party support in the long run.

President Biden’s response to the protests is seen as a balancing act between supporting peaceful protests and maintaining order, which could affect his support among younger voters. Republicans, led by Trump, are capitalizing on the protests to portray Biden as weak on law and order issues, which might benefit Trump in the upcoming election. 

Biden’s strong support for Israel may alienate progressive and young voters, impacting his chances of re-election in 2024. Non-Arab Muslim communities, who traditionally lean Democratic, are also expressing discontent with Biden’s response to the Gaza crisis. Consequently, the discontent among Arab American voters extends beyond the presidential race and impacts other political contests, such as the race for the Senate. 

The dissatisfaction among young voters with Biden’s policies is evident in high voter turnout and a significant percentage of “non-committed” votes among young voters in areas like Ann Arbor, Michigan. The “uncommitted” voting movement initiated by Michigan Arab Americans is spreading to other states, indicating a growing trend of voter protest and dissatisfaction that could influence future primaries and elections. 

If current trends hold, then the 2024 presidential election could see a significant shift in voting patterns among Arab American and Muslim voters, potentially influencing the outcome in key swing states like Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.

Editorial Team