Study: Arab election turnout expected to slump to unprecedented low

“Among the younger Arab population, mostly first-time voters, 60% aren’t intending to vote. Among the older generations, over 35 years old, 60-65% said they would vote.”

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March 28, 2019 20:01
3 minute read.
An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the n

An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the northern town of Umm el-Fahm March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

 
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Arab-Israeli turnout is expected to slump to an unprecedented low in the upcoming April 9 elections for the Knesset, according to a new survey mapping Arab voting patterns and intentions.

While Arab voter turnout stood at 63.5% when the Israeli public last headed to the ballot box in 2015, turnout is expected to decline to just 51% this time, closer to the average turnout preceding the establishment of the Joint List.

The survey was conducted by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, which operates on behalf of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.

“The primary conclusion of the survey is that the Arab voter is disconnecting or taking a break from parliamentary politics,” said Arik Rudnitzky, program manager at the Konrad Adenauer Program, presenting the results of the survey.

“Among the younger Arab population, mostly first-time voters, 60% aren’t intending to vote. Among the older generations, over 35 years old, 60-65% said they would vote.”

The most pressing matters for Arab Knesset members to advance, respondents said, were the eradication of violence and crime in Arab society (27%), attempts to regulate “illegal structures” in Arab localities (22%) and the repealing or amendment of the Nation-State Law (20%), passed by the Knesset in July 2018.

A further 16% said the improvement of Arab-Jewish relations was a pressing matter for Knesset members to address, while less than 4% said strengthening connections with the Palestinian Authority was one of the most important issues.

Among the Arab citizens intending to vote, the former Joint List parties are expected to receive 63% of the vote, with Hadash-Ta’al receiving 39.6% of the vote and Ra’am-Balad receiving 23.3%. In 2015, the Joint List picked up 82% of the Arab vote.


The two non-Arab parties set to benefit most from the Arab vote, the survey revealed, are Meretz (10.3%) – with Muslim Arab Esawi Frej and Druze candidate Ali Shalalha in the top five of their party list – and the Blue and White Party (9.6%), which is expected to receive some 57% of the Druze electorate’s backing.

The Labor Party (3.3%) and the Likud Party (2.1%) are expected to receive limited support from the Arab sector, while almost 10% of those intending to vote responded that they were still undecided regarding their choice.

“For many years, turnout in Arab society has stood at approximately 55%, although in 2015 the Joint List led more to go out and vote,” said political commentator Ahmad Mahamid.

“The decrease in turnout is firstly due to the split of the Joint List, returning the electorate to its regular voting behavior. But then, there is a further decrease in turnout due to the disappointment of that split,” Mahamid added.

“While there will be a major decrease in the two Arab party lists from an estimated 13 seats to 10 seats, a lot of votes will go to Gantz and to Meretz.”

Among those not intending to head to the polls, some 50.5% said they would not be voting as they hold “no interest in politics,” 19% said there was no party that represented them and 12.4% said they would not be voting following the break-up of the Joint List.

Only 10% said they were boycotting the elections based on ideological reasons, with 63.7% of respondents agreeing that the Knesset represents “a relevant political arena for Arab citizens.” A further 12.6% said they should not give up on the Knesset, even if they do not perceive it as relevant to their needs.

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