Bush, Not His Policies, Winning More Black Support, Survey Shows

By Kathleen Rhodes | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - African Americans may be increasingly unhappy with President Bush's job performance, especially his handling of the war in Iraq, but more blacks intend to vote for Bush this year than in 2000, according to a new survey.

Those contradictory findings, released Tuesday, come from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C., based policy research organization, which surveyed 1,642 adults from around the country between Sept. 15 and Oct. 10. The respondents were equally divided into two groups, one comprised solely of African Americans and another representing the general population.

A majority of the African Americans (63 percent) surveyed said they feared their votes would not be counted in the 2004 election. But 18 percent said they now intended to vote for Bush. That's twice the number of blacks who expressed support for Bush in the same study in 2000. Also, fewer African Americans over the age of 50 identified themselves as Democrats compared with 2002.

On some issues, African Americans seem more in line with Bush than the population as a whole.

Only 32 percent of blacks oppose the Medicare prescription drug bill, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies survey showed, compared with 39 percent of the general population. African Americans also showed greater opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions, 49 to 37 percent, than the general population.

Still, an overwhelming 69 percent supported Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and more young African Americans (under age 35) described themselves as Democrats than in 2002 (66.3 now to 55.2 percent in 2002).

Only 22 percent of African Americans gave Bush high job approval ratings, and 67 percent viewed him unfavorably. There is less support among blacks for the No Child Left Behind Act than with the general population (23 percent to 32 percent), and nearly 75 percent oppose Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

So what accounts for these conflicting findings?

David Almasi of Project 21, a network of black conservatives, indicates that part of the reason Bush's support has gone up among African Americans is because the Democratic Party and Kerry campaign have taken the black vote for granted.

Unlike Al Gore in 2000, Kerry and his campaign have "been criticized for not having a willingness to listen to African American concerns," Almasi told CNSNews.com . He also pointed to a broader inattention to blacks on the part of the political left.

"I think that the liberals have been taking the African American vote for granted for years and the lackluster payoff is starting to come home to roost," Almasi said. "[The political left has] been taking advantage of the black vote and not giving anything in return."

Almasi added that "blacks are more conservative than these politicians give them credit for." He cited "values [like] gay marriage" as an area where African Americans side more with conservatives.

And while Bush's support among blacks appears much higher than in 2000, Almasi indicated that scare tactics on the part of liberals may be preventing the president's numbers from moving even higher. "They're hoping they can get people to the polls by fear," Almasi claimed, pointing to recent accusations that Republicans are trying to suppress the minority vote and that a military draft is possible if Bush is re-elected.

Almasi suggested that most African Americans disagree with Bush's handling of the economy because of the importance they place on "kitchen table issues like jobs and education."

Bush's education reform plan, the No Child Left Behind Act, also attracts little support from blacks, but Almasi said it's because of the Democratic Party's "Bush-is-evil kind of perspective" and not because of actual disagreements over the substance of the law. "Black parents are overwhelmingly for school choice, which is what No Child Left Behind is," he said.

Almasi said the Bush campaign has not worked hard enough to win the approval of African Americans, and added that both parties could do more to allay the fears of those still concerned with voter suppression and fraudulent voting systems.

He stressed the need for more "voter education in addition to voter registration" for African Africans, saying that spoiled votes in the last election were largely because "[people] simply didn't know what to do" when they got to the polls. "At this point," Almasi said, "there is no proof of voter suppression."

Some are cautioning, though, against using the survey to predict how African Americans will actually vote on Nov. 2, according to USAToday.com.

David Bositis, the political analyst and senior research associate of the Joint Center, pointed out that those participating in the study were African American and had attained voting age, but were not necessarily registered or likely to vote.

Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, also noted that the Joint Center's 2000 survey showed Al Gore with 74 percent support among blacks when he went on to win 90 percent of the black vote on Election Day.

Bositis also disagreed with Almasi 's views about why most blacks oppose President Bush's education reforms. He said that for the first time since the Joint Center survey has questioned African Americans on the subject, fewer blacks than whites support school vouchers.

Repeated calls to the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the National Urban League, seeking comment for this article, had not been returned by press time.

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