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As the political debate about Syrian refugees intensifies, the discussion is likely to look very different depending on the state.
The number of Americans claiming Syrian ancestry is not enormous, only about 157,000 Americans fall into that group, and the number of people living in the United States born in Syria is even smaller, about 67,000. But some states have far larger shares of the population than others.
California is the leader in both categories – nativity and ancestry – far and away, but the top ten states for Syrian population stand out. They hold 72 percent of the people who say they are of Syrian ancestry and 80% of the people who say they were born in Syria, according to data from the U.S. Census.
There are also some common political traits in that chart. Nine of those top 10 states voted Democratic in the 2012 presidential race. That’s not a complete surprise. Those are also states with large urban populations and, as we have noted before, urban populations tend be more diverse.
But the numbers indicate how much more of an issue the Syrian refugee story is for Democratic presidential candidates than Republicans. These are the big states Democrats have to win in order to capture the White House and they are also the states more directly affected by the Syria story.
Those states also line up with the top states that have received Syrian refugees since 2012. California leads the way with Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida also taking large numbers.
How voters in those states react to the Syria story could play a big role in 2016, particularly if there are more noteworthy terrorist attacks by ISIS in Western countries.
That chart is also significant when you consider the Republican governors who are opposed to placing Syrian refugees in their borders.
Many of those opposition governors represent states where taking a stand against Syrian immigrants may not have much impact, such as Idaho and Maine, which have Syrian populations of 159 and 279 respectively.
But governors who oppose the placing Syrians within their borders also represent seven of the top 10 states above – all but California, New York and Pennsylvania – and those seven states hold about 60,000 people claiming Syrian ancestry. Those populations have a much more direct tie to the story and if the debate around the refugees intensifies those states may be primed for protests in the coming days and/or weeks.