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Surveys predict bump in Arab voter turnout ahead of November 1 elections

One poll finds 49% of Arab Israelis likely to cast ballot, while another suggests figure as high as 70% but includes those who ‘think’ they will vote

Arab-Israelis cast their ballots as they vote in Israel's general election, in Kafr Manda, northern Israel on March 23, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Arab-Israelis cast their ballots as they vote in Israel's general election, in Kafr Manda, northern Israel on March 23, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

A pair of polls published this week predicted a rise in Arab voter turnout, despite months of surveys predicting that less than half of the community will participate in the November 1 elections.

The Israel Democracy Institute’s Special Arab Society Election Survey, published Thursday, found that among respondents, 50.5 percent said they are “certain” that they will vote, while 19.4% said they “think” they will vote.

Taking recent turnout rates into account, however, it is highly unlikely that 70% of Arab Israelis will cast a ballot. An IDI expert clarified: “Optimistic readings would find the number closer to 50%. At the end of the day, the outcome will be determined by the Arab parties’ ability to organize on the day of elections and to galvanize their public to go to vote.”

Among the 29.4% who said they don’t plan on voting, 10.2% “think” and 19.2% are “certain” they won’t head to the ballot box.

A survey published on Tuesday by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation (KAP) at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center found that 49% of Arab Israelis were planning to vote.

“In stark contrast to the picture observed a month ago, when deep indifference to elections prevailed on the Arab street, this current poll reveals a growing interest among Arab voters to participate in the election,” said Arik Rudnitzky, the head of the program.

Just last month, a poll by the Kan state broadcaster’s Arabic news site Makan found only 40.5%. of Arab Israelis plan to vote in the elections.

Members of the Hadash and Ta’al factions in the Joint List speak to the media after breaking off from Balad on September 15, 2022 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

In 2020, a turnout of 63.5% in Arab localities garnered the Joint List — then made up of Ra’am, Hadash, Ta’al, and Balad — a record-high 15 seats.

Last year’s elections, in which the Islamic Ra’am party ran separately from the rest of the Joint List, saw turnout in Arab localities falling to 44.6%. Turnout among Arab voters has trailed behind that of the general electorate by at least 10 points in each of the elections since 2015.

In the current campaign, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al have been polling just above the electoral threshold and are expected to win four seats apiece, while Balad is predicted to not win any mandates in the election, according to opinion polling.

Asked who they would prefer to serve as prime minister, 34.2% of respondents told Tel Aviv University that there was no suitable candidate for the job.

However, 18.6% responded that they preferred Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu for the role, 6.6% said Balad chair Sami Abou Shahadeh, 6.3% backed Ta’al’s Ahmad Tibi, 4.8% responded Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas, 4.7% named Prime Minister Yair Lapid, 3.2% Defense Minister Benny Gants, and only 3% said Hadash’s Ayman Odeh.

The IDI found that only half of Arab Israelis feel that existing political parties represent their views. Among those, 31% said there was a party that “partially represents their views,” while 18% responded that one of the parties “fully represents their views.”

Asked specifically about Arab MKs, 53% of respondents said Arab lawmakers do not represent the diverse views of their community, while 45.5% think they do.

Arab Israelis are largely enthusiastic about Arab parties joining a coalition government, with 69.5% supporting such a move, and 29% opposing it. Additionally, 75% responded that they would approve of an Arab MK becoming a cabinet minister.

However, only 43% of respondents believed that Ra’am’s participation in the coalition improved the lives of Arab Israelis, with 55% opining otherwise.

Asked by the IDI which issue should be at “the heart of the election campaign,” 54% said violence in Arab society, 16% said housing, 11% said the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, and only 5% said the Palestinian issue.

Arab Israelis are divided on the question of whether their vote actually matters, with 48% believing it does and 53% believing it doesn’t.

Arab Israelis block a road as they protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings in their communities, in Tel Aviv, October 28, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

According to the survey, Arab Israelis hold a variety of opinions regarding the main reason for the high rates of crime in their community.

Among them, 28% said poverty in the Arab community and the significant financial benefit of being involved in crime was responsible, 28% blamed ineffective police and law enforcement, and 20% blamed a lack of state funding for crime prevention.

Additionally, 7% charged that Arab leaders don’t cooperate with the police; 5% said Arab society is violent and therefore further resources or cooperation was irrelevant; 4% blamed values, home, and education; 2.5% blamed receding power and influence of authorities in Arab society; and 3.5% agreed with all the reasons, and 2% responded that they don’t know.

The IDI polling sampled 614 men and women aged 18 years and over who were interviewed in Arabic, with a sampling error of 3.95% at a confidence level of 95%. The Tel Aviv University study sampled 510 Arab Israelis aged 18 years and over who were interviewed in Arabic, with a sampling error of 4.4%.

Jack Mukand contributed to this report.

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