The growing electoral strength, power and concerns of Latino and Asian-American voters have rightfully garnered significant attention in the two weeks since the re-election of President Obama. But the same can't be said of black voters who were also a key component of the president's victory. An under-reported NAACP "Battleground State" poll of 1,600 black voters is worth a look for those who have been disturbed about the comparative silence in pundit-land about the continued and future role that African Americans play at the polls and in policy, particularly in relation to other racial and social justice constituencies.
Here are some highlights from the slidedeck released by the civil rights organization the week of the election:
- The increased turnout and almost uniform electoral support of Obama, when compared to support for John Kerry in 2004, was decisive in battleground states like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia (Slide 6).
- Jobs and the economy are the priority issue for black voters, as they are for other racial groups (Slide 9).
- Black voters continue to believe the federal government should play a role in protecting "minority" interests such as voting rights, public education, housing opportunities, and affirmative action (Slide 10).
- There's overwhelming support for the DREAM Act--71 percent strongly supporting and 23 percent supporting (Slide 15).
- Half of black respondents supported marriage equality (Slide 15).
- Black support for marriage equality rises to a safe majority figure of 57 percent when a religious exemption for performing ceremonies is included (as was the case in the popularly approved policies in Maine and Maryland), with only 31 percent opposed. That's a margin of 26 percent that expands to 41 percent for black voters aged 18-30. (Slide 16)
It's important to also note that black voters anticipate being far less enthusiastic about the Democratic ticket without Obama at its head in 2016 (Slide 18). And while the Democrats enjoy a significant lead over Republicans on black perception of how hard the parties are working on critical problems such as poverty, health care, and job opportunities, both parties get a failing grade when it comes to working hard and caring about the monumental issue of the mass incarceration of African Americans.
One last point: an unfortunate byproduct of elections is the not-always-subtle jockeying for title as the decisive constituency, and I certainly don't mean to suggest here that black voters should make that claim. But neither should others. The truth is there were several key constituencies that made Obama's victory a reality, and a re-emphasis on examining how we can collectively advance and enrich each other's racial and social justice struggles--in both policies and practices--is paramount in the time between the first Tuesday in November every four years.
Dom Apollon is research director of Colorlines.com's publisher, the Applied Research Center, which served as a paid consultant to Pacific Market Research, the polling firm that administered and oversaw the NAACP poll.