x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE voters follow the drill

Abu Dhabi's American oil crowd tilts to McCain, but Dubai voters tip towards Obama.

ABU DHABI // Americans living in Abu Dhabi are more likely to have voted for the Republican candidate, John McCain, in today's US presidential election than those in Dubai, a Democratic activist says. A large proportion of Americans in Abu Dhabi work in the oil industry, which typically votes Republican in US elections, Chris Hansen, head of Democrats Abroad UAE, said.

"The mix of Americans in Dubai is substantially different than Abu Dhabi, because of its oil industry," Mr Hansen said. "Overall, a higher proportion of Americans in Abu Dhabi work in oil, and the oil industry tends to favour McCain because of his stance on oil and offshore drilling in the US." In Dubai, Mr Hansen said, there was a wider diversity of people from all parts of the US who worked in various industries such as law, banking, equity trading and more.

This made it more likely that a greater percentage of American voters chose the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, in Dubai than in Abu Dhabi. "You probably will see a higher percentage of people of Dubai's population voted for Obama than McCain," Mr Hansen said. Although the elections are being held today, Americans living abroad must cast their votes days or even weeks in advance, filling out an absentee ballot and sending it to their state election commission.

Though Mr Obama has surged ahead in the polls, one oil worker, Jeff Percival, said he hoped Mr McCain would stage an upset. Mr Percival, 38, said many American expatriates in the oil and gas industry were cheering on Mr McCain, who has proposed increases in domestic oil production, including the lifting of a ban on offshore drilling, which has irked environmental groups. "Drill, baby, drill" and other oil production slogans are common sights at his campaign rallies.

Mr Obama has shown more scepticism on domestic oil production and favours promoting alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar power. "A lot of them think the outcome of the election could have an effect on the oil and gas business," said Mr Percival, who moved to the UAE from Texas. "A lot of the guys who I know in the industry are saying they want McCain to win because Obama's bad for oil and gas."

The US embassy estimates 30,000 Americans live in the UAE but there are no official statistics of how many work in the oil and gas sector. An Abu Dhabi resident, Jeff, 43, who moved from California over a year ago, also said oil workers in Abu Dhabi had been saying they would vote for Mr McCain, but he chose the Republican candidate because of his tax policies. "Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax, which is going to kill me," he said. "I'm concerned about foreign policy issues, for sure, but in this election I'm definitely focused on how the elections play out domestically."

Jeff, who declined to give his last name or his place of work, is involved in the US real estate market and earns more than US$250,000 (Dh918,338). Although he favours Mr Obama's plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq and the Illinois senator's penchant for diplomacy, Jeff said he would be more comfortable with Mr McCain as president. "Bush has damaged America's image and we're not pulling out of Iraq soon enough; that country will never be a democracy," he said. "I'm hopeful the next president will fix the economic situation but if Obama wins, I'll be wiped out."

hnaylor@thenational.ae