Almost three-fourths of American Muslims plan to vote in the presidential primaries and the hard-core Republicans among them say they will vote for Donald Trump if he is the GOP nominee, according to a new survey from the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The six-state survey found that 73 percent of registered Muslim voters intend to go to the polls in upcoming primary elections and 67 percent of them expect to vote for Democrats.
More than half of the people polled say they’ll support Hillary Clinton (51.6 percent), followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (22 percent) and Donald Trump (7.5 percent).
Muslim voting patterns have shifted over the past 15 years. Muslims supported George Bush in 2000, but the majority have voted for democrats in every presidential and midterm election since then.
“Muslim voters traditionally supported the GOP by a greater margin than the Democratic party,” Robert McCaw, government affairs manager for CAIR, said in an email. “Following the Republican party’s general turn against American Muslims through toxic political rhetoric, state and federal legislation targeting Islamic religious principles and practices (Sharia law), and imbalanced national security programs, American Muslims by majority have shifted in their support.”
Yet, despite making anti-Muslim comments on the campaign trail and calling for non-American Muslims to be banned from entering the United States, Trump placed third among candidates from both parties.
“I think because of his anti-establishment [views] and his business background gives hope for economic policies Republicans traditionally aligned with,” Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, told ThinkProgress. “He has worked with Muslims all his life, and he has properties all over the Middle East, despite [his] anti-Muslim rhetoric, and many business dealings with our constituency and knows we’re good people.”
“Seven percent of Muslims supporting Donald Trump is not surprising given that 15 percent of Muslim voters identify as Republican,” McCaw said, “and Trump has the greatest name recognition among GOP candidates.”
Muslim voters ranked Islamophobia as the most important issue this campaign season, followed by the economy, heath care and civil liberties. A 2014 CAIR survey found Islamophobia to be the third most important issue for American Muslim voters.
CAIR surveyed almost 2,000 registered Muslim voters in six states with the highest Muslim populations: California, New York, Illinois, Florida, Texas and Virginia.
Overall, Muslims make up a small fraction of the electorate. There are about 2 million Muslim American adults in the country. The US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of American Muslim organizations, recently announced its goal to register one million voters prior to the 2016 presidential election.