If Arabs were in US voters shoes, how would they vote?

If Arabs were in US voters shoes, how would they vote?
Updated 04 November 2016

If Arabs were in US voters shoes, how would they vote?

If Arabs were in US voters shoes, how would they vote?
JEDDAH: How would Arab citizens vote, if given the chance, in next week’s hotly contested US election?
An unprecedented regional public opinion survey on the presidential race, conducted by Arab News and YouGov, polled 3,017 people in an attempt to find out.
The Arab News/YouGov US election MENA poll, published exclusively today, suggests a general dissatisfaction with both US presidential candidates, and reveals how people in the region stand on key policy issues such as border control, security, Iran, Syria and ISIS.

Most people in the region would prefer Hillary Clinton, rather than Donald Trump, to win the US presidency. But Arab public opinion is much more balanced regarding the two candidates’ standpoints on key issues — suggesting the headline finding has more to do with personality than policy.

“Of course everybody has an opinion on the election, but this was the first chance for the Arab population to put themselves in the voters’ shoes and actually think about, very clearly, who they would vote for,” said Kailash Nagdev, managing director for YouGov in the Middle East and North Africa.

The wide-ranging survey, conducted across 18 countries in the region, was undertaken between Oct. 14 and 18.
Russia stands as the biggest threat facing the US today, as perceived by Arab respondents, while crime is the most worrying issue faced by normal Americans, the survey found. 

The poll found Clinton to be the most popular candidate, with 44 percent of Arab respondents saying they would vote for the Democratic nominee if given the chance, compared to the 9 percent who would vote for Trump.
Almost half the people questioned in the Middle East and Africa said however that, were they able to vote, they would snub both candidates on Nov. 8, the poll revealed.

“What is surprising is that — given the chance — 47 percent of the respondents said they wouldn’t vote for either of the two candidates,” said Nagdev. “This shows the unpopularity of the two candidates in the Arab world.”
Despite that, there is widespread interest in the US election race, with 52 percent of people in the region following the news of the contest — and 78 percent saying the result will have a direct impact on the Arab world. 

So why, then, would so few people in the region vote?
“They’re clearly interested in the US elections, and they just can’t decide who to vote for, and there’s a lack of options,” said Nagdev.
“Clinton does quite well by getting the support she gets in the region. But I would still say that, if there were a better option I think we would have seen a significantly different reaction from people,” he added. “I would expect the percentage of people who vote to be in the high-80s, if not higher.”
But the findings also suggest that, while most Arabs prefer Clinton and almost half shun both US presidential candidates, feelings are much more balanced when it comes to the candidates’ specific policies. 

The Arab News/YouGov US election MENA poll presented several policy statements held by both Clinton and Trump — although without naming the candidates, to avoid bias – in order to gauge how people in the region feel toward the key issues.

Clinton, for example, has ruled out sending ground forces to Syria, while Trump has called for more troops in the area. The Arab News/YouGov poll found people in the region to be fairly evenly split on this issue. It found that 46 percent of respondents believe the US should send troops to fight ISIS in the region, and collaborate closely with Russia on solving the Syrian crisis. But 54 percent said the US should be more involved in the humanitarian efforts for Syrian refugees, arm moderate groups and increase air strikes on ISIS and Syria — but not send in ground troops.

The region was similarly divided over whether the nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers including the US should be annulled.
But there are topics on which people in the region strongly support either the Democratic or Republican candidate’s views.
The Arab citizens polled overwhelmingly agree with Trump’s stance on abortion, and tended to agree with his tough policy on border controls.
Most sided with Clinton however on her support for a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, something Donald Trump’s advisory team has appeared to back away from.

When asked how they would feel about US-Israel ties were they American, 89 percent of Arab respondents said the next president should preserve the strong relationship with Israel, but recognize new settlements as illegitimate, pursue a two-state solution and resolve disagreement over Jerusalem once relative peace is achieved. Only 11 percent said the next president should recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
So despite most respondents to the Arab News/YouGov poll believing that Clinton would be the best US president, actual opinion on policy issues is relatively balanced between the two candidates, Nagdev said.

“Whilst not completely surprising that only 9 percent of people would vote for Trump, a number of policies that Trump is putting out are neck-and-neck with what Clinton or the Democrats are saying. So that was the biggest takeaway for me from the research,” he said.
But, in line with the general mood of the US election coverage, Arab public opinion appears to have been swayed by far more than the policy issues on the table.
“The personality of Trump — his outspokenness, especially against religious minorities such as Muslims — has swung the vote in favor of Clinton,” Nagdev said.
“If it was any other candidate, I think the Arab world would be far more balanced between the Democrats and the Republicans.”