Despite Outreach, Bush Lost Black Goodwill Even Before Katrina

President Bush’s ratings among blacks have slipped--and that was in polling completed before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast.

Gallup’s annual minority relations poll provides the evidence. In 2001, 37 percent of blacks approved of the job Bush was doing. In the 2002 poll, that proportion rose to 41 percent; in 2003, it was 32 percent; and in 2004 and 2005, it tumbled to 16 percent.

In each of these years, fewer than 10 percent of blacks identified themselves as Republicans, while their identification with Democrats exceeded 60 percent each year. Younger blacks in Gallup’s data--like those contacted of other pollsters--were less likely than older ones to identify with the Democratic Party, but they were not much more likely to identify as Republicans. Among blacks 50 years of age and older, 73 percent identify as Democrats and 6 percent as Republicans. Among those 18-49 years old, 55 percent identify as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

What about after Katrina? In the first post-Katrina poll by Gallup, CNN and USA Today, 14 percent of black Americans approved of the job Bush was doing. A whopping 81 percent disapproved.

A New Spokesperson for Black America? In Gallup’s Sept. 8-11 poll, 63 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Condoleezza Rice and 25 percent an unfavorable one.

Thirty-four percent had a favorable opinion of Jesse Jackson, and 55 percent an unfavorable one.

Charitable Assessment. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it would reimburse churches and other religious organizations for their work in the areas affected by Katrina and Rita. Every poll taken since the hurricanes showed that large majorities of Americans believed charitable institutions performed well. For instance, in a September Zogby International poll, 32 percent rated the government’s responses as excellent or good, but 86 percent rated private charities’ response that way.

In a question asked before the hurricanes, two-thirds told Pew Research Center/Pew Forum on Religious Life pollsters that churches, synagogues and other houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving important social problems, 23 percent said “not much” and 7 percent said “nothing at all.”

Two-thirds of respondents in the July survey favored allowing churches and other houses of worship to apply, along with other organizations, for government funding to provide social services such as job training or drug treatment counseling to people who need them. Thirty percent were opposed.

Disasters in My Backyard. Twenty-four percent of respondents told NBC News/Wall Street Journal interviewers in Sept. 9-12 interviewing that the area in which they lived was very vulnerable to natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, avalanches or mudslides. By contrast, 30 percent said somewhat vulnerable, 25 percent said not that vulnerable and 20 percent not vulnerable at all.

Giving Up on Iraq? In a Sept. 27-28 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 34 percent said they had personally given up on the possibility of Iraq eventually being able to create a stable government; 57 percent said they had not.

Democrats were split, 45 percent to 45 percent, while Republicans were more confident (18 to 77 percent) and independents were barely so (43 percent to 49 percent).

Iraq = Vietnam? In an early September Harris Interactive poll, 38 percent said the comparison of the Iraq war to the Vietnam War was a fair one. But a near-majority, 49 percent, described it as unfair.

Airport Security Requirements. Most people appear pretty comfortable with airport security measures taken since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In a late August CBS News poll, 18 percent said airports should allow passengers to take items such as scissors, razor blades, and small knives on board in their carry-on luggage, while 79 percent were opposed. There were no partisan differences in responses. Sixty-seven percent said requiring passengers to remove their shoes at security checkpoints was necessary, and 28 percent said it was not. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say this was necessary (75 percent to 61 percent).

Identity Theft. Fifty-five percent told CBS News/New York Times interviewers in Sept. 9-13 polling that they were very concerned about the theft of their personal identity numbers such as their Social Security, cell phone, phone card or bank account numbers, with 34 percent somewhat concerned. In March 1998, those responses were 57 percent and 29 percent, respectively. The pollsters reported that this issue transcends partisanship and ideology.

Karlyn H. Bowman is a resident fellow at AEI.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
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