Monday, December 21, 2009

Will Black and Brown Voters Turnout in Large Numbers 2010 and 2012?

The President is hearing from increasingly vocal black and brown political elites.  Black leaders, especially Congressional Black Caucus leaders, are unhappy with that economic public policy initiatives have not contained special provisions for the black community.  Latino leaders are unhappy with the President for his lack of initiative on immigration reform.  The President provides a response of sorts here as reported Politico.    His basic response, which incidentally is the correct political response, is that he is President of the United States and not president of black or brown America.  The real question is whether the grumbling of black and brown elites will make its way down to the black electorate.
According to Rasmussen, the President has 98% approval among African American voters (compared with a 37% approval with white voters.)  And the President seems to be banking on this support.  As reported by Politico, the President remarks on the overwhelming support in the black community for his policies--basically, it does not matter what black leaders think about him as long as the black electorate approves of the job that he is doing.

This raises two questions for me.  First, do voters of color believe (even though they may strongly support the President) that the Administration has paid too little attention to communities of color?  Second, if they do believe that the Obama administration is insufficiently attentive to their needs, will it make them less likely to turnout?

If the recent gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey are indicative, turnout among voters of color is going to be a problem in 2010.  More to the point, according to this poll, only 33% of black voters are planning on turning out for the 2010 midterms.  By contrast 68% of white voters reported thier intention to turnout to vote in 2010.  And if voters of color do not turnout, as everyone knows, it is going to be an uphill climb for Democrats.

It is not clear why voters of color are less likely to turnout in 2010.  One could tell two stories.  While voters of color may be happy with the President, (i.e., still ecstatic that we have a black president), they may not be happy with the public policy of his administration.  That is, they may believe that his administration has not done enough for the colored electorate.  Or, they may not like the way the President is being treated (e.g., why participate in the political process when even the supposed most powerful man in America is not able to get things done because of his race. )  I'd prefer the public policy story because at least you can do something about the perception/reality that the administration is not sufficiently responsive to the needs of communities of color.

The President also said that his policies (e.g., healthcare, the economy etc) will also benefit communities of color.  And to the extent that communities of color are disproportionately impacted, they will benefit disproportionately.

The President is clearly right that he is President of the United States and not president of colored America.  The President is also right that his support, particularly among African Americans, is extremely high.  But it does not follow that voters of color will show up at the polls in 2010 to support other Democrats and it may not follow that they will turnout in record numbers to support the President in 2012, especially if they don't perceive any public policy benefits.

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