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Published: Thursday, 9/16/2004

Zogby poll indicates Bush is gaining Arab-American votes in 4 key states

BY ANN McFEATTERS
BLADE WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

WASHINGTON - The number of Arab-American voters in the battleground states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida who view President Bush favorably has risen slightly.

Reflecting a national trend that shows Sen. John Kerry's support slipping so far this month, polling by Zogby International for the Arab-American Institute found that Mr. Kerry's support has dropped from 54 percent in July to 49 percent among Arab-Americans. In July, 24.5 percent of Arab-American voters said they would vote for Mr. Bush. Now, 31.5 percent said Mr. Bush deserves to be re-elected.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, an Arab-American running a third-party campaign, would get about 9 percent of their votes, if the election were to be held now instead of Nov. 2. That is down from a high of 20 percent in February.

This is the fourth of six polls taken by the Zogby polling firm among Arab-Americans in the four states where 1.1 million Arab-Americans live and where 510,000 are expected to vote, a higher percentage than the country at large.

Arab-Americans, a large majority of whom voted for Mr. Bush in 2000, have been disaffected with Mr. Bush because they do not approve of the war in Iraq and because they believe that the administration tilts toward Israel instead of being a fair arbiter between Israelis and Palestinians.

James Zogby, brother of the pollster and director of the Arab-American Institute, said he is puzzled why Mr. Kerry has not distinguished his position from Mr. Bush's on the war in Iraq and why Mr. Kerry is not taking advantage of the Arab-American community's anti-Bush sentiments.

He said the debates in 2000 were an important factor for Mr. Bush in winning a majority of Arab-American votes because he mentioned Arab-Americans "and it set off a wildfire of support, because they felt respected."

In the his report, Mr. Zogby wrote: "The apparent failure of the Kerry campaign to do outreach to Arab-American voters and to define their candidate and his positions has resulted in Kerry's inability to gain ground with a constituency which, as the polling data demonstrates, was clearly ready for a change. While Kerry might have secured as much as two-thirds of the Arab-American vote, he remains at less than one-half."

Brendon Cull, Democratic Party spokesman for Ohio, yesterday said the Kerry campaign is seeking the support of Arab-American voters.

"We have an aggressive campaign in Ohio to reach out to Arab-American voters and we will continue to do that right up until the election," Mr. Cull said. "We're reaching out through community groups and directly to voters." About one-fourth of Arab-Americans are Muslim, one-third are Catholic, one-third are Orthodox Christian, and the rest have no affiliation. The Arab-American vote is 5 percent of the total vote in Michigan, 2 percent in Florida, just under 2 percent in Ohio, and 1.5 percent of Pennsylvania.

Contact Ann McFeatters at:

amcfeatters@nationalpress.com

or 202-662-7071.



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