Any discussion of Arab Americans must consider, at the outset, both the deep diversity as well as the shared attitudes and concerns that exist within the community. As is the case with most ethnic groups, Arab Americans are not a monolith.
They hail from 22 Arabic-speaking countries. They are of different religious traditions. And while three-quarters are native born (some being fourth-generation American-born), the rest are foreign-born naturalised citizens.
Despite this rich diversity, a recent poll conducted by the Arab American Institute (AAI) revealed a great number of shared attitudes among significant numbers of respondents from all demographic subgroups.
While it has already been reported that the AAI poll found Arab American voters favouring Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a 59 per cent to 35pc, also explored were how Arab Americans viewed a number of Middle East-related issues and how they evaluated both candidates’ handling of many of these same issues.
Weighed against a list of 14 major policy concerns, only five pc of Arab Americans ranked resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a priority issue in determining their vote for President – the only foreign policy issue included in the list.
Nevertheless, 44pc of the respondents indicated that resolving this conflict was one of the most important foreign policy challenges facing the US Administration.
In fact, this issue was ranked the most important of the seven Middle East-related concerns covered in the poll. In second place, at 33pc, was “meeting the humanitarian needs in Syria.
“Addressing the political and economic crisis in Lebanon” was third, at 28pc. These were followed by the ending the war in Yemen, improving relations with the Arab world, countering the threat posed by Iran, and stabilising and rebuilding Iraq – seen as important by between 16pc to 11pc of Arab Americans.
A strong plurality of Arab Americans saw Trump’s handling of each of these foreign policy challenges as ineffective. And by a margin of 48pc to 32pc, the community’s voters said they believed that Biden would be best at improving ties with the Arab world.
When asked for their attitudes about “several nations across the Middle East who are playing increasingly important roles”, Arab Americans were most favourably disposed towards Egypt, with 73pc saying they had favourable attitudes towards that country.
Next in line was Turkey, with a 68pc favourable rating, followed by the UAE at 66pc, Saudi Arabia at 56pc, and Iran at 47pc.
Seventy-eight pc of Arab Americans said they viewed the recently-signed UAE and Bahrain agreements with Israel as a positive development, with 63pc expressing the hope that “it may contribute to making the Middle East a more peaceful region” and 57pc hoping that “it might contribute to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace”.
The AAI poll also asked Arab Americans how they are most likely to define themselves, whether by country of origin, religion, or as Arab American.
The preferred identity was simply “Arab American” (29pc), followed by country of origin (27pc), and religion as the preferred self-identity of only 15pc. “All three” – Arab American, country of origin, and religion – was the choice of 17pc.
More than three-quarters of all Arab Americans said they were “very proud” of their ethnic heritage.
It is important to note that they maintain this pride despite the fact that 61pc claim they have “personally experienced discrimination because of my ethnicity or country of origin”.
This fear remains strong, with 70pc of all Arab American respondents saying they are “concerned about facing future discrimination because of their ethnicity or country of origin”.
In the end, what emerges from this survey is that with all of its diversity, it is a community proud of its heritage, concerned with discrimination and sharing many attitudes on a range of issues both foreign and domestic.