President Joe Biden continues to dismiss reports that Arab and Muslim voters are increasingly vowing not to vote for his reelection, even as those voters vocalize their frustrations with the president and distance themselves from him.
When asked by a reporter last Thursday about the Arab and Muslim groups who have pledged to not vote for him, the president made clear that he was a better choice than former President Donald Trump, who will likely be the Republican presidential nominee.
“Are you concerned with the Arab American votes voting for you during this election because of Gaza? Many say they will not vote for you,” asked the reporter.
“The former president wants to put a ban on Arabs coming into the country,” said Biden, referring to the travel ban Trump implemented that barred individuals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. “We understand who cares about the Arab population.”
But Muslim and Arab votes said Biden is underestimating the community’s long-standing frustration with the White House. Muslim and Arab support for the president has rapidly dwindled since Israeli forces began a bombing campaign in Gaza in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants, with full support from the White House. The U.S. has contributed around $130 billion to Israel since its founding, making the country the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military financing.
Since October, Muslim and Arab organizers and advocacy groups have staged protests, signed petitions, written letters, and taken to social media to announce their disapproval of the president’s Israel strategy. Muslim American leaders from battleground states have vowed to mobilize their communities against Biden’s reelection. People who had their families killed in Gaza said they could not in good faith vote for him. And Muslim and Arab staffers working for Biden in the federal government have expressed their own frustration with the president.
The White House has hosted a handful of meetings for a selective number of Muslim and Arab leaders, but many say those efforts are not enough, citing concerns about the president’s lack of outreach to Muslim and Arab Americans at home, and about the administration not publicly showing sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza.
The White House directed a response for comment to the Biden campaign. The campaign declined to comment.
Youssef Chouhoud, an assistant professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, said Biden’s response to voters turning away was rooted in “undue overconfidence.” Biden presuming Muslim and Arab voters will walk back their vows not to vote for him is “selfish,” he added.
A poll conducted last October found that support for Biden’s reelection has plummeted among Arab American voters, dropping from 59% to 17%, a 42% decrease from 2020. A second poll released in November found that two-thirds of Arab and Muslim Democrats in Michigan said they plan to vote against Biden. While Muslims only make up 1% of the population, many reside in key states — including Michigan, which Biden won by just 150,000 votes in 2020.
Many voters haven’t decided if they’ll vote Republican — especially since Trump has vowed to bring back his travel ban if reelected — or third party, but they say one thing is for sure: They won’t be voting for Biden.
The number of voters who are turning away from Biden is increasing due to the administration’s overall policy and rhetoric surrounding Gaza, Chouhoud said.
“There is a qualitative difference between the way that Biden and his administrative officials talk about Palestinians versus how they talk about Israelis,” Chouhoud said. “Each time it’s happened, it has cut that much deeper.”
Early on in the conflict, Biden publicly cast doubt on the Palestinian death toll ― which at the time totaled more than 6,000 Palestinians, including 2,700 children ― saying he had “no confidence” in the number even though his administration cited it regularly. Last week, the White House released an official statement marking 100 days since Oct. 7, sympathizing with the Israeli hostages Hamas had taken but making no mention of the mounting death toll in Gaza. (At least 25,000 people have been killed as of Sunday, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.)
Muslim and Arab groups met with Biden privately and told the president they supported a cease-fire, voicing concerns that many in their community, including those who had families trapped or killed in Gaza, felt dismissed and ignored. They still haven’t seen any changes from the administration that make them feel heard ― and for many voters, Biden’s lack of public support has reached a point of no return.
“It’s not really a matter of strategic consideration at this point,” Chouhoud said. “It’s a matter of maintaining your dignity when you enter that voting booth.”