A new survey conducted by one of Joe Biden’s former pollsters shows the president’s support has cratered among Muslim and Arab Democrats in Michigan, a key demographic group that overwhelmingly backed Biden in the swing state in 2020.
The poll lends further credence to the warnings Arab and Muslim community leaders in Michigan and beyond have been issuing for weeks: that Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza could cost him a state that he won by just 150,000 votes in 2020 and is home to an estimated 240,000 Muslims.
The survey, shared first with NBC News, was conducted by Lake Research Partners, a respected Democratic pollster that did extensive work on Biden’s 2020 campaign and those of many other major Democratic candidates, like Hillary Clinton. It was commissioned by Detroit Action, a progressive advocacy group.
The survey reached 513 registered, likely Democratic voters in the state, including oversamples of Arab and Muslim Democrats, and of voters under the age of 30. It was conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 2 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The margin of error is more than twice as large among the oversampled subgroups, given their small sample sizes. But only a relative handful of Arab and Muslim Democrats surveyed, 16%, said they would vote for Biden if the election were held today.
Biden’s performance in that subgroup put him in a muddled competition with other options including independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., former President Donald Trump, independent Cornel West and the option of “another third-party candidate.” A plurality of Arab and Muslim Democrats did not register a vote choice in the survey.
About two-thirds of Arab and Muslim Democrats said they now think they will vote to replace Biden, and three-quarters said they are willing to vote for a third-party candidate. The results appear driven by the U.S.-backed Israeli campaign in Gaza, with those voters almost unanimously giving Biden a “poor” rating for his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the most negative response option available.
While NBC News exit polls from 2020 did not ask voters whether they were Arab or Muslim, a national post-election survey conducted by a major Muslim group found 69% voted for Biden.
In Michigan, Biden won 83% of the vote in the Michigan precincts with the highest concentrations of Muslim and Arab Americans. And he won 81% of the vote in Hamtramck, the first Muslim-majority city in the country, which last year elected an all-Muslim city government.
The numbers for Biden are also challenging among voters under 30, with just 61% saying they would vote for Biden if the election were held today and 56% giving him a “poor” rating on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the survey. About 4 in 10 respondents under 30 years old said they would be willing to vote for a third party.
“Biden’s extremely poor performance among Arab, Muslim and young voters of his own party is historic and frightening,” said Waleed Shahid, a progressive strategist who has been active in the messaging fight around the Gaza war. “Biden is risking handing the future of American democracy to Trump by providing [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s far-right government an unpopular blank check to wage a reckless war.”
Still, the election is a year away, and at the moment voters may be judging Biden on his own instead of against his opponents. Trump, for instance, recently revived his plans to bar many Muslims from entering the U.S. And a group of Republicans in Congress just introduced a bill that would expel some Palestinian Americans from the country by revoking visas issued after Oct. 1, among other actions.
And the survey suggests Biden could win back some Muslim and Arab voters and young Democrats by working harder to rein in Israel and doing more to support Palestinian civilians.
A majority of all Michigan Democrats surveyed said they supported a cease-fire, including 92% of Muslim and Arab Americans and 75% of those under 30. Both subgroups said they would be more likely to vote for Biden if he supported a cease-fire.
Biden has spoken about about the suffering on both sides of the conflict and called for a humanitarian “pause” in Israel’s campaign against Hamas to allow more civilians to leave Gaza and more aid to enter. His administration has been working to allow more traffic through Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.
Overall, Michigan Democrats were divided on current plans for the U.S. to send $14 billion in additional military aid to Israel, with a slight plurality supporting it. But Muslim and Arab and young voters were generally opposed and said they would be more likely to support Biden if he held back on it.
“This poll illustrates what Detroit Action and members in our community have expressed numerous times,” said Branden Snyder, the executive director of Detroit Action. “The plight of these families suffering under a violent, colonial occupation resonates with our fight for all oppressed people, in the U.S. and abroad.”
A New York Times poll released Sunday found Biden trailing Trump in five critical battleground states, including by 5 points in Michigan, 43%-48%. While that survey did not break out results by religion or Arab ethnicity, it showed lower levels of support for Biden than in the past among young voters and those who identified their ethnicity as something other than white or Black.