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Arab, Black, Muslim voters 'swung Michigan for Biden', early polling shows Open in fullscreen

Taufiq Wan

Arab, Black, Muslim voters 'swung Michigan for Biden', early polling shows

Early polling shows that Arab voters may have helped the Biden win [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2020

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Early polling shows that Arab and other ethnic minority voters may have been a crucial factor in Joe Biden's Michigan victory.
Early reports indicate that Arab-American and Black voters may have been crucial in flipping Michigan from the Republicans towards Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Polls conducted by the Arab American Institute and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) show that Arab and Muslim voters may well have voted in higher numbers than in 2016. 

The vote in the Midwestern state swung in Biden's favour late on Wednesday as counts from counties with high numbers of Black, Arab, Asian and Latino residents came in.

The Wayne County cities of Detroit and Dearborn are home to an estimated 200,000 Arab-Americans, according to the Arab American Institute.

Early polling shows that Biden won around 70 percent of the Arab vote in Wayne County alone. 

"While we must wait for the final exit polls to analyse the result thoroughly, early evidence shows that mobilisation of Arab American voters in Michigan... has had a key role in the Democratic victory there," political analyst Arash Azizi told The New Arab.

The 2020 election has highlighted the diverse nature of America's ethnic minority communities, whose voting habits may be divided along religious and socio-economic lines.

Arabs make up just 18 percent of the country's Muslim community, which overwhelmingly voted in favour of Biden. Polling by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) showed that only 17 percent of American Muslims voted for Trump.

Zienab Fahs, CAIR Michigan's Director of Safe Spaces, told The New Arab that grassroots activism, both by political and non-partisan groups  was successful in getting the Muslim vote out in Michigan.

"Biden intentionally worked with many of the local Muslim political action groups and community organisations to ensure voters that support for Biden meant equal protections, including the necessity of unprejudiced policies towards immigration," Fahs said.

For Arab communities of other faiths, however, this was not necessarily the case this election.

In Macomb county, Michigan's sizeable Iraqi Chaldean community remained behind Trump, helping the incumbent president to win 54 percent of the vote.

The Chaldean community's support for Trump in 2016 had proved a deciding factor in his narrow Michigan victory.

"We should bear in mind that the Arab community in the Midwest, including Michigan, is by no means homogenous. On a national level, Arab Americans have often voted overwhelmingly Republican as recent as George W Bush's time," Azizi says.

Azizi said that Trump also has supporters among the American Arabs community.

"[A] few factors have turned the community into being a base of pro-Biden activity: Trump's racism and anti-Muslim sentiments had a role. But more important than that are mobilised left-wing Democrats that helped electrify the voting base," said Azizi.

"Clinton campaign had tried to do this four-years-ago, to a degree, but on a much smaller scale."

Michigan, like much of the US, saw record-breaking voter turnout.

The state's higher turnout appears to reflect a broader trend across the country, with the US Elections Project estimating that the total turnout was a record 160 million voters, including more than 101.1 million early voters, 65.2 million of whom voted by mail. Most of these votes went to Biden.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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