Neg­a­tive cam­paign against Arabs, Mus­lims has con­se­quences

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS - By Dr James J Zogby

While, as pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump has worked to cul­ti­vate a re­la­tion­ship with Arab lead­ers, the an­tipa­thy towards Arabs and Mus­lims that he and his party have cul­ti­vated in re­cent years con­tin­ues to have a wor­ri­some im­pact on Amer­i­can pub­lic opinion and pol­icy.

Re­cent polling con­ducted three weeks af­ter Trump’s sum­mits in Saudi Ara­bia, es­tab­lishes the per­sis­tence of a deep and dis­turb­ing par­ti­san di­vide in Amer­i­can at­ti­tudes to­ward Arabs and Mus­lims. On many ques­tions, the views of Democrats and Repub­li­cans are ex­actly the op­po­site of one an­other, with Repub­li­can at­ti­tudes to­ward the two com­mu­ni­ties be­ing ex­tremely neg­a­tive and the views of Democrats be­ing over­whelm­ing pos­i­tive. For ex­am­ple, even af­ter Trump’s visit, only 18 per­cent of Repub­li­cans have a fa­vor­able view of Mus­lims while only 20 per­cent have fa­vor­able views of Arabs. This stands in marked con­trast to the 59 per­cent and 58 per­cent of Democrats who are fa­vor­ably in­clined to­ward Mus­lims and Arabs, re­spec­tively.

Th­ese are some of the ob­ser­va­tions that can be gleaned from the lat­est Zogby An­a­lyt­ics poll con­ducted for the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute in mid-June of this year. The AAI/ZA poll sur­veyed 1,012 vot­ers na­tion­wide. AAI/ZA have an­nu­ally ex­am­ined US opinion on th­ese is­sues for two decades in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand at­ti­tudes to­ward Arabs and Mus­lims and the chal­lenges faced by Arab Amer­i­cans and Amer­i­can Mus­lims. As a re­sult, it is pos­si­ble to ob­serve changes over time. It was dur­ing the 2010 con­gres­sional elec­tions that the GOP first at­tempted to ex­ploit fear of Mus­lims for par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal pur­poses. While the ef­fort did not have an ap­pre­cia­ble im­pact on the election, it­self, the con­tin­u­a­tion of this ef­fort dur­ing the next two election cy­cles has re­sulted a siz­able shift in Repub­li­can at­ti­tudes not only to­ward Arabs and Mus­lims, but Amer­i­cans ei­ther of Arab an­ces­try or the Mus­lim faith.

AAI/ZA polling con­ducted in Dec 2015, af­ter 6 years of anti-Mus­lim cam­paign­ing, shows the “mir­ror im­age” ef­fect in place with Democrats record­ing 47 per­cent fa­vor­able/28 per­cent un­fa­vor­able at­ti­tudes to­ward Amer­i­can Mus­lims as com­pared with Repub­li­can’s 25 per­cent fa­vor­able/53 per­cent un­fa­vor­able at­ti­tudes.

‘Trump ef­fect’

If there has been any “Trump ef­fect” on at­ti­tudes, it has been to in­crease the fa­vor­able at­ti­tudes of Democrats to­ward Arabs and Mus­lims. For ex­am­ple, Democrats’ fa­vor­able at­ti­tudes to­ward Arab Amer­i­cans in­creased from 51 per­cent in 2015 to 58 per­cent this year, while the pos­i­tive rat­ing given to Amer­i­can Mus­lims jumped from 47 per­cent to 61 per­cent. Mean­while, Repub­li­can fa­vor­able at­ti­tudes to­ward Amer­i­can Mus­lims re­mained at a low 25 per­cent, while drop­ping from 34 per­cent in 2015 to 31 per­cent for Arab Amer­i­cans.

Even more pro­nounced are the dif­fer­ences in at­ti­tudes be­tween those who iden­tify as Trump vot­ers ver­sus those who say they voted for Hil­lary Clin­ton. Clin­ton sup­port­ers give a 62 per­cent fa­vor­able rat­ing to Arab Amer­i­cans and a 64 per­cent rat­ing to Amer­i­can Mus­lims. Only 32 per­cent of Trump sup­port­ers view Arab Amer­i­cans pos­i­tively and only 28 per­cent rate Amer­i­can Mus­lims pos­i­tively. This is not just a ques­tion of “lik­ing or not lik­ing” the two com­mu­ni­ties, th­ese neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes have con­se­quences for gov­ern­ment pol­icy. With Repub­li­cans in con­trol of the White House, Congress, and most state gov­ern­ments, the at­ti­tudes of the Repub­li­can vot­ers mat­ter to GOP of­fice­hold­ers.

What our polling shows is that on is­sues that af­fect the lives of Arab Amer­i­cans and Amer­i­can Mus­lims rang­ing from im­mi­gra­tion to civil lib­er­ties, the par­ti­san di­vide is sub­stan­tial and ex­plains, in part, Repub­li­can sup­port for poli­cies hos­tile to both groups. For ex­am­ple, while a plu­ral­ity of Amer­i­cans (48 per­cent to 30 per­cent) op­pose re­strict­ing rights in the name of se­cu­rity, Repub­li­cans and Trump vot­ers are in fa­vor of such poli­cies. And while Amer­i­cans are evenly di­vided on whether law en­force­ment are jus­ti­fied in us­ing eth­nic or re­li­gious pro­fil­ing in deal­ing with Arab Amer­i­cans and Amer­i­can Mus­lims, Repub­li­cans and Trump vot­ers sup­port such pro­fil­ing by greater than four to one (in the case of Trump vot­ers 63 per­cent in fa­vor with only 14 per­cent op­posed).

And while a sig­nif­i­cant ma­jor­ity of all Amer­i­cans agree that there has been an in­crease in dis­crim­i­na­tion and hate against Arab Amer­i­cans and Amer­i­can Mus­lims, break­ing down the num­bers we find a huge par­ti­san di­vide.

NOTE: Dr James J Zogby is the Pres­i­dent of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute

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