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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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February 8, 2016

How the American Muslims vote in 2016 election?

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The seven-million strong American Muslim community has voted overwhelmingly voted for Democrat s since 2004 and a recent poll released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) indicates that the American Muslims will follow this trend.

The CAIR survey finds that 67 percent will vote for Democratic Party candidates. More than half of respondents said they’d vote for Hillary Clinton and 22 percent back Bernie Sanders. More than 85 percent of Muslims who voted backed President Barack Obama in 2012, according to a CAIR poll.

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate,  has support of mere 7.4% Muslim Americans while his rival, Ben Carson has support of mere 5%.

The CAIR released the results of the survey of registered Muslim voters in the six states with the highest Muslim populations on Feb 1st, hours before the Iowa caucuses kick off voting in the 2016 presidential election.

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed identified as Democrats and 15% said they are Republican.

The number of Muslim voters who say they will turn out for the primary elections is higher than in a similar poll for the 2014 midterm elections. The voters were asked: Do you plan to vote in your upcoming state primary election? Almost 73.8% responded yes.

“The increase in the number of Muslim voters who say they will go to the polls in their primary elections indicates a high level of civic participation that may be driven at least in part by concern over the rise in Islamophobia nationwide,” CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw said.

“Toxic political attacks from the Trump and [Dr. Ben] Carson campaigns are definitely driving interest” from Muslim voters to participate in the primaries, McCaw told the Newsweek. 

Islamophobia was ranked as the No. 1 issue for the Muslim voters polled by CAIR. About 30% of the Muslims surveyed said they think Islamophobia is the most important issue going into 2016. The economy and health care also topped Muslims voters’ list of concerns, according to the survey.

Muslim voters have strong turnout  and CAIR’s survey found that 74 percent of the registered voters polled intend to vote in this year’s election.

Given the increasingly polarized state of the electorate, blocs like Muslim Americans can take on outsize importance—and they have shown themselves to be swing voters.

David Graham of The Atlantic says: "Prior to the 2000 election, Muslims tended to be a fairly splintered group, often voting more based on ethnicity than a shared religious identity. During that race, George W. Bush made Muslim outreach a priority, and he did well with the bloc. But following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Muslim vote has swung strongly toward Democrats, driven by opposition to wars in the Middle East and concerns about civil liberties and Islamophobia stateside."

Since the Bush campaign in 2000, the Republican Party has become increasingly strident in its rhetoric about Islam, Graham says adding:

"The single most important issue that comes up in conversations with Muslim advocates and leaders is the growth of Islamophobia and the persistence of anti-Muslim rhetoric among Republicans. The 2010 controversy over a proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan—calledas the “Ground Zero Mosque” by its opponents — helped to make this rhetoric a national issue. Many Republican leaders joined in the chorus against the mosque and kept talking about Islam throughout the 2012 election.

"During this election, GOP presidential candidates have gone further. Ben Carson said he thought a Muslim should not be president. Republican governors, as well as some Democrats, have asked the federal government not to resettle Syrian refugees in their states. Republican candidates have offered bills in Congress to end the refugee program. Donald Trump suggested registries and special IDs for Muslims, before making his suggestion that Muslims — immigrants, tourists, and perhaps even citizens — be barred from entering the United States."

The shift by American Muslims away from the Republicans is dramatic, "and the truest example of a backlash we've seen,” says pollster John Zogby. “This is virtually unprecedented.”

CAIR's survey of almost 2000 registered Muslim voters in California, New York, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Virginia – the states with the highest Muslim populations - was conducted on January 26 using an independent automated call survey provider and asked four questions:

Question One: Do you plan to vote in your upcoming state primary election?

Yes - 1417   73.80%
No -    235     12.24%
Decline to Answer - 268 13.96%

Total Respondents - 1920 100.00%

Question Two: Which political party do you plan to support in your upcoming state primary election?

Democrat -    876    67.33%
Republican - 190    14.60%
Libertarian -   21     1.61%
Green -         11 0.85%
Other -          57 4.38%
Decline to Answer - 146 11.22%

Total Respondents - 1301 100.00%

Question Three: Based on your party support which candidate do you plan to vote for in the upcoming state primary election? 

Hillary Clinton -    525    51.62%
Bernie Sanders - 224    22.03%
Donald Trump -   76      7.47%
Sen. Ted Cruz -   21      2.06%
Jeb Bush -           16      1.57%
Sen. Marco Rubio - 15   1.47%
Martin O'Malley - 10       0.98%
Sen. Rand Paul -  6        0.59%
Dr. Ben Carson -  5        0.49%
Gov. Chris Christie - 4    0.39%
Carly Fiorina -      3         0.29%
Decline to Answer - 112 11.01%

Total Respondents - 1017 100.00%

Question Four: What is the most important issue to you in the 2016 presidential election? 

Islamophobia - 456
Economy -        364    23.71%
Health Care -    221   14.40%
Civil Liberties - 103     6.71%
Foreign Affairs - 95     6.19%
Education -        86      5.60%
Other -                78     5.08%
Decline to Answer - 132 8.60%

Total Respondents - 1535  100.00%

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.