The Times West Virginian

Headline News

April 29, 2013

In a first, black voter turnout rate passes whites

(Continued)

WASHINGTON — ooooo

Even with demographics seeming to favor Democrats in the long term, it’s unclear whether Obama’s coalition will hold if blacks or younger voters become less motivated to vote or decide to switch parties.

Minority turnout tends to drop in midterm congressional elections, contributing to larger GOP victories as happened in 2010, when House control flipped to Republicans.

The economy and policy matter. Exit polling shows that even with Obama’s re-election, voter support for a government that does more to solve problems declined from 51 percent in 2008 to 43 percent last year, bolstering the view among Republicans that their core principles of reducing government are sound.

The party’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report released last month by national leaders suggests that Latinos and Asians could become more receptive to GOP policies once comprehensive immigration legislation is passed.

Whether the economy continues its slow recovery also will shape voter opinion, including among blacks, who have the highest rate of unemployment.

Since the election, optimism among nonwhites about the direction of the country and the economy has waned, although support for Obama has held steady. In an October AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of nonwhites said the nation was heading in the right direction; that’s dropped to 52 percent in a new AP-GfK poll. Among non-Hispanic whites, however, the numbers are about the same as in October, at 28 percent.

Democrats in Congress merit far lower approval ratings among nonwhites than does the president, with 49 percent approving of congressional Democrats and 74 percent approving of Obama.

William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, says that in previous elections where an enduring majority of voters came to support one party, the president winning re-election — William McKinley in 1900, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 — attracted a larger turnout over his original election and also received a higher vote total and a higher share of the popular vote. None of those occurred for Obama in 2012.

Only once in the last 60 years has a political party been successful in holding the presidency more than eight years — Republicans from 1980-1992.

“This doesn’t prove that Obama’s presidency won’t turn out to be the harbinger of a new political order,” Galston says. “But it does warrant some analytical caution.”

Early polling suggests that Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton could come close in 2016 to generating the level of support among nonwhites as Obama did in November, when he won 80 percent of their vote. In a Fox News poll in February, 75 percent of nonwhites said they thought Clinton would make a good president, outpacing the 58 percent who said that about Vice President Joe Biden.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, predicts closely fought elections in the near term and worries that GOP-controlled state legislatures will step up efforts to pass voter ID and other restrictions to deter blacks and other minorities from voting. In 2012, African-Americans were able to turn out in large numbers only after a very determined get-out-the-vote effort by the Obama campaign and black groups, he said.

Jealous says the 2014 midterm election will be the real bellwether for black turnout. “Black turnout set records this year despite record attempts to suppress the black vote,” he said.

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