New cracks have begun to show in President Obama’s support amongst African Americans, who have been his strongest supporters. Five months ago, 83 percent of African Americans held “strongly favorable” views of Obama, but in a new Washington Post-ABC news poll that number has dropped to 58 percent. That drop is similar to slipping support for Obama among all groups.
“There is a certain amount of racial loyalty and party loyalty, but eventually that was going to have to weaken,” said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University, who studies African Americans. “It’s understandable given the economy.”
African Americans have historically correlated approval ratings of the president to the unemployment rate, she said. The slip in the strongly favorable rating continues the decline Obama has seen among all groups, but black voters have been his staunchest supporters. Overall, they still hold a generally favorable view of the president with 86 percent saying they view him at least somewhat favorably.
Gillespie’s view that the decline is tied to the disproportionately high jobless rate faced by African Americans correlates with the drop in their view of Obama’s handling of the economy. In July, only 54 percent of blacks said they thought Obama’s policies were making the economy better compared with 77 percent the previous year.
Similarly, the White House has been sharply criticized in recent months by black political leaders, who argue that he has not done enough to help blacks. The unemployment rate for African Americans hit 16 percent this summer, the highest rate since 1984, and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus launched a jobs tour focused on the problem.
This week the caucus is holding its annual legislative caucus in Washington, and the focus of a series of morning panels Wednesday was the lack of progress on jobs. Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been pushing Obama and publicly chided an administration official during the jobs tour to say the word “black” and directly address the needs of the community, said she would “continue to push the president and the Congress to adopt targeted policies to address the need.”