WASHINGTON // Barack Obama's lead in the presidential race among Arab-Americans has nearly doubled since last month as the economy has come to increasingly dominate their concerns, according to a new survey. Mr Obama leads John McCain among the Arab-American electorate by almost a 3-1 margin, 64 per cent to 23 per cent, a poll made public yesterday by the Arab American Institute in Washington found. In September, the Democrat was ahead of his Republican rival 55 per cent to 35 per cent.
Mr Obama maintained virtually the same big lead even when two other candidates - Bob Barr, a Libertarian, and Ralph Nader, an Arab-American who is running as an independent - were included in the survey. "A combination of factors point not only to a huge Obama victory among Arab-American voters, but a dramatic surge in the percentage of Arab-Americans identifying as Democrats," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, who is also a columnist for The National.
The poll was conducted by Zogby International on behalf of the Arab American Institute. John Zogby, James Zogby's brother, is head of the polling firm. James Zogby explained the boost in support for Mr Obama. "Two things: the economy and the economy," he said. He added that the negative nature of the Republican campaign in recent weeks, as well as a largely negative view by respondents of Sarah Palin, Mr McCain's running mate, also contributed.
Just 29 per cent of those surveyed viewed Mrs Palin favourably, compared with 65 per cent for Joe Biden, Mr Obama's No 2. "Joe Biden even does better among Arab-American Republicans than she does," Mr Zogby said. The bump in Arab-American support for Mr Obama could make a difference in several states rich in electoral votes, including Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, where there are sizeable Arab-American populations.
This month, Mr McCain pulled his resources out of Michigan, where five per cent of the electorate is Arab-American, to focus his time and money elsewhere, effectively conceding the state to Mr Obama. Eight years ago, Arab-Americans identified themselves about equally with the two major parties: 40 per cent with Democrats and 38 per cent with Republicans. That year, they gave their support to George W Bush.
But since 2000, more and more Arab-Americans have been leaning Democratic. That trend became even more pronounced this month, according to the survey, as 54 per cent now identify themselves with the Democratic Party and 27 per cent with the Republican Party. Mr Bush's job-approval rating, meanwhile, slipped even further, to 11 per cent from 19 per cent last month. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they believed the country is on the wrong track, up from about two thirds in September.
The survey of 504 voters was conducted from Oct 10 to Oct 15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. firstname.lastname@example.org