Despite Tax Deal, Blacks Favor President Almost Twice the Rate of Whites
By Eric Mayes
Special from the NNPA
President Barack Obama approaches the second anniversary of his inauguration with the overwhelming support of African Americans, who support him at nearly twice the rate of Whites.
“There have been people who have made some suggestion that he is going to lose the support of the African-American community. It hasn’t happened and I don’t think it will,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat, who has been a loyal Obama ally in the U.S. House.
However, among Democrats, Obama’s approval rating has inched downward since the president brokered a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. But African Americans remain among Obama’s most ardent supporters, according to a recent Gallup Poll. Numbers released recently showed 89 percent of Blacks support the president. That contrasted with a 37 percent approval rating among Whites.
“Approval among Blacks has yet to drop below 85 percent in any week of his presidency,” said Jeffery Jones, in his analysis of Gallup’s numbers, adding: “No more than 40 percent of Whites have approved of Obama since May.”
Obama enjoys historically high levels of approval from the African-American community because his legislative agenda is tied directly to its needs, Fattah said. “They’re not voting for someone on how well they speak, or in Barack Obama’s case, because he’s an African American. They’re voting because of his position on issues,” he said. Generally, African Americans support the Democrats’ agenda, Fattah said, which lines up with Obama’s slate of legislative items that includes more money for education, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, reducing sentence disparities for crack and powdered cocaine offenders and tax reform.
Support does not mean that Obama hasn’t faced dissent from within the Black community. His recent deal to extend the Bush tax cuts angered some members of the Congressional Black Caucus who said it was “bad for African Americans.” “There are tough choices that will have to be made next year [and] we know what will happen – it’s going to be low-income communities, poor communities of color that are going to pay,” Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California.
Fattah, a member of the CBC, supports Obama’s plan and said he was confident that in the final analysis most African Americans will too. “Two out of every three dollars went to families making under $250,000,” he said, noting that a two percent reduction in payroll taxes that was part of the plan would provide immediate help to the lowest wage earners.
The president, who has faced other bouts of criticisms from within the Black community, appears to be trying to strengthen his position among African Americans. He now meets regularly with a group of advisors called the National Policy Alliance to address concerns specific to the Black community.
“The president appears more receptive to reaching out to get unfiltered and diverse perspectives from Black Americans outside of Washington D.C.,” said Michael Cottman, a columnist for BlackAmericaweb, in a recent column. “It’s a refreshing departure from the ongoing perception that Obama doesn’t want to appear too Black, fearing that he would alienate some White voters by talking too much about Black issues.”
Overall, Obama’s approval rating has remained very steady during the last year. According to Gallup, it was 45 percent, down a nearly imperceptible two points from a year ago.
“The stability in Obama’s rating since the mid-term elections is notable,” Jones said. “Most presidents whose parties suffered heavy losses in the mid-terms saw their average approval ratings fall after the midterm elections through the end of the year.”
Within the Democratic Party, the president has seen a shift in his support. Support among Democrats has fallen since the president brokered an extension of the Bush tax cuts. According to Gallup, his support within the party fell from 79 percent to 76 percent.
Fattah said he felt sure those numbers would rise as the public came to grips with the new Republican majority in the House. It would also reaffirm Black support for Obama.
“When you see the Republican priorities as presented by the new House majority … and the president is on the other side of that it’s going to crystallize again why African Americans see their interests best protected by the Democratic Party,” he said.
Pollsters in general point to historical precedent when discussing the possibility of Obama’s re-election. The president’s 45 percent job approval rating is very similar – if not slightly higher than – to many of his predecessors who won second terms. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both had 42 percent approval ratings at the same point in their presidencies.
“If the current political environment for President Obama has hit rock bottom then his prospects for re-election are quite good,” noted an analysis of a recent NBC/WSJ poll with findings similar to Gallup’s.