- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A new poll of Arab Americans in four battleground states shows a large shift in voter preferences that now favors Democratic candidates. If true, it represents a major shift from as recently as the 2000 presidential election, when then-Gov. George Bush won nearly 50 percent of Arab Americans’ votes.

The survey, conducted by Zogby International for the Arab American Institute (AAI), of likely voters in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania found that Arab Americans are supporting Democrat gubernatorial and Senate candidates by close to 3-1 margins.

“This first started in early 2002,” said AAI President James Zogby. “It enlarged in 2004, and now, in 2006, has grown to very large majorities.” And with a number of close races potentially shifting the control of Congress, the major shift of even a small ethnic bloc could give one side the edge.

According to the AAI, the Arab American community is projected to cast a likely turnout of 510,000 voters who represent “up to” 5 percent of all voters in Michigan, 2 percent in Ohio and Florida and more than 1.5 percent in Pennsylvania.

Among those half-million voters, 45 percent self-identify as Democrats, while 31 percent call themselves Republicans. In all four states, the Democrats are leading among Arab Americans by large margins, with Florida’s gubernatorial race being the exception.

“Clearly, there is a trend in the Democrats’ direction,” Mr. Zogby said. “Clearly, there is a vote for change.”

Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania Democrat, leads his Republican opponent Lynn Swann 67 percent to 22 percent, according to the poll. Similarly, in Ohio, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland leads Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell 60 percent to 21 percent.

This is also true in Michigan, even though the Republican Senate candidate, Michael Bouchard, is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. The Zogby poll showed Mr. Bouchard trailing among Arab American voters to Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow 54 percent to 31 percent.

The numbers are a far cry from as recently as 2000, when Mr. Zogby says President Bush won the support of 46 percent of Arab Americans, compared with 38 percent who went for Al Gore. Independent candidate Ralph Nader, who is Lebanese, received 13 percent of the vote.

Pollster John Zogby, James Zogby’s brother, said that his initial data on Arab-American voting trends, conducted between 1981 and 1984, showed “a fairly even balance” in voter identification between Democrats, Republicans and independents. For the most part, that trend continued through the late 1990s.

“In 1996, that parity was present,” Mr. Zogby said. There has been a 12-point shift away from the Republicans over the past decade, he said.

However, Mr. Zogby said the shift toward Democrats was not necessarily a permanent one. “I’m not convinced those numbers are locked in place,” he said. “John Kerry got 3-to-1 over George Bush, and he didn’t earn it.”

Mr. Zogby said the door could be open for a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who offers “a dramatic shift in policy” from the current administration. Democrats are benefiting mostly from being the opposition party. “In Ohio, it’s because [Senate candidate Rep.] Sherrod Brown is not the Republican,” he said.

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