Bernie Sanders Michigan
Senator Bernie Sanders thrusts his fists in the air as he speaks to supporters at a rally on 8 MarchCarlo Allegri/Reuters

Voters in the tenth most populous US state have "felt the Bern" after Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders won Michigan with 49.8% of the vote. His close rival Hillary Clinton took a 48.3% share while Donald Trump won big in the Republican field, taking three states including Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii.

While the Trump steamroller chugs along, the true story of the night was Sanders' overwhelming popularity in Dearborn, Michigan. The city of around 100,000 people is home to the largest enclave of Arab-Americans in the country, who make up 40% of its population. It was here that Sanders recorded a stunning 59% victory, with Clinton lagging behind on 39%.

As various media outlets wondered out loud how a community with a sizeable Muslim (and Arab Christian) population could vote for a Jewish candidate, residents went out to support Sanders – who speaks to them politically – rather than fuelling the badly misguided notion that followers of Islam are intrinsically anti-Semitic and therefore, racist.

IBTimes.com's Ismat Sarah Mangla noted that the Week branded the win as "just one more strange data point in an election overflowing with them." Radio host Brian Lehrer made a point of tweeting that 40% of the Arab vote going to a Jewish candidate was the "stat of the night".

Unity, not divide in Dearborn is one motivating factor

Bernie Sanders reached out and spoke to his fellow Americans, showed them compassion and fought for cohesion, not division – and that common goal is what propelled him to take the city and indeed, the state.

Sanders' achievement was based on political outreach, not religion – something that Clinton failed to do. Speaking to a packed theatre ahead of the vote, the Vermont senator said: "We're going to end bigotry in this country once and for all."

Sanders added: "The Donald Trumps and their friends are not going to be successful in scapegoating minorities in this country. They are not going to be successful in attacking and denigrating our Muslim friends and neighbours; or our Mexican friends and neighbours. They are not going to divide us."

Law professor and Detroiter, Khaled Beydoun tweeted: "The 'Muslims voting for a Jew' tagline is trite. Muslims voting for Bernie in #MichiganPrimary b/c of his progressive policies and outreach."

True to his mantra of unity, Sanders focused on the state's Arab voters and released a radio advert in Arabic and he also met with Arab-American leaders in Dearborn. He even went to the effort to print bilingual information, according to the Detroit Free Press. His desire to connect with all Americans regardless of race, religion or gender ultimately resulted in his endorsement by the Arab American News organisation earlier this month.

Sanders' proposals resonate among young voters

Like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Sanders is hugely popular among younger voters across the country because he understands what matters to them, such as access to affordable education and staggering university debt, rather than where to build a wall and who should pay for it.

"He's for people like us, people like me," said 22-year-old Shiab Mussad. "I got thousands of dollars of college debt, and he talks about making college affordable, giving me a fair shot. That resonates a lot with me, with young voters. I support him because of his policies, not because of...his personal religion."

With Sanders, it's about liberating young adults through education, not crushing them under a mountain of debt. On average, student debt in the US has increased 500% in real terms over the past 30 years, according to a study by INSEAD business school in France. Like so many other issues, this is not just a problem faced by Muslims, but by all Americans – hence the vote for Bernie Sanders the politician, not Bernie Sanders the Jew.

"I'm a millennial, so the obvious choice would be Bernie Sanders," said 26-year-old Dearborn resident, Zayd Sufyan, 26. "He's for the minority, he's noticing the youth, wants them to be able to go to school without paying too much for it."