When Michigan voters caucus today, analysts may get their first measure of the strength and political leanings of a new - and potentially influential - bloc of voters: Muslims.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Muslims “have become politically active like never before, and they are hoping to influence elections in a number of states, including Michigan,” Genevieve Abdo wrote in a thorough treatment of the little-told story in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune.

With a potential nationwide turnout of 3 million people, Muslims represent an untested group of voters for the Democratic hopefuls, who have been courting their support in communities such as Dearborn, Mich., which has the second highest Muslim population in the U.S. outside of New York City. Other key states, where the Muslim vote may be a factor are Florida, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and Illinois, says Abdo.

High priorities among many Muslim voters, according to the Tribune, are protecting civil rights and countering false impressions many Americans have developed about the Islamic faith.

In the 2000 election, many Arab-Americans supported George Bush, but this year the Republicans should not count on their automatic support, David Rebovich, a political analyst at Rider University in New Jersey, told Wayne Parry of the Associated Press. Nor should the Democrats, he added. “I can see where there are concerns about civil rights in the Muslim community,” said Rebovich. “I am not so sure the Dems have automatically found this as a new constituent group.”

Stories like Abdo’s and Parry’s aren’t as sexy as chasing candidates from state-to-state, but unlike so many campaign reports, theirs actually bring to light little-known facets of a new electorate.

—Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.