Report: Identifying MENA Voters and Canvassing Results in Anaheim and Irvine

Orange County, California, is home to one of the largest Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities in the United States. The MENA community has emerged as one of the most critical voting blocs in the country but also one of the most understudied. Current political data may need to be clarified for individuals’ identities based solely on their name, missing the complexity of the MENA category and further clumping the community among other groups.

During the 2022 Midterms Election, the Arab American Civic Council sent canvassers to encourage eligible low-propensity residents to vote in the upcoming elections and to correct data provided on the MiniVAN canvassing app. Canvassers requested voters to respond positively or negatively to a MENA option. Canvassers found that individuals in two Orange County cities, Anaheim and Irvine, will have an 85% chance to answer “Yes” or “No” when asked about their identity. Canvassers found that the MiniVAN app aggregated individuals with their names, as Muslim-sounding names tend to be the closest to Arabic-sounding names. Of these individuals, 55% positively identified as MENA, while 45% negatively identified as MENA. Most MENA residents reside in West Anaheim, the location of the Little Arabia District.

The data leads to several conclusions and leads. First, data targeted to MENA constituents should allow individuals to self-identify their identity, providing space for more accurate data. Second, voters have a high chance of answering a MENA question when given the opportunity. More MENA-identifying individuals are located in Anaheim than Irvine, indicating where institutions could initially target services and products for the community. Third, the desired needs of the community consisted of empowerment and education. The community’s sentiment for empowerment and education should be an indicator for public institutions, such as OCHA and the O.C. Registrar, to begin including Arabic, Farsi, and other MENA languages within its publications and literature. The community wants to be engaged, and a start to including the MENA community within the county’s overall goals is to speak to them in terms they understand.

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Response to “Do you Identify as Middle Eastern or North African?” on Individuals Canvassed

ResponsenResponse Rate (n / 737)MENA Response Rate (Yes or No / 623)
Total Yes + No62384.50%
Total Canvassed737

Canvassers found that the highest concentration of MENA respondents was in Anaheim, specifically West Anaheim.

Yes/No Response Rates for the Cities of Anaheim and Irvine.

CityResponsenMENA Response Rate (n / City Total)

Yes/No Response Rate for Anaheim Regions (Anaheim Hills and West Anaheim)

RegionResponsenMENA Response Rate (n / Region Total)
Anaheim HillsYes10657.90%
West AnaheimYes11168.50%

West Anaheim, the location of Anaheim’s Little Arabia District, saw 68.50% of respondents positively identify with the MENA identity.

Demographics of Respondents

Demographics of Positive MENA Respondents