Thursday, June 20, 2013

Racial divide may shore up Obama approval

A new poll by Gallup illustrates the large opinion divide between whites and minorities and may help explain why President Obama’s job approval remains high in spite of a spate of recent scandals. Even though his administration has been buffeted by a series of scandals over the past few months including questions about Benghazi, IRS abuse of conservative groups, spying on reporters, telephone and computer surveillance of Americans, and the revelation that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, is driving up insurance prices. In spite of the scandals, President Obama still has a 47 percent approval rating according to Gallup (44 percent disapprove).

A new Gallup poll released today shows that the president’s support is concentrated among minorities, who are also more confident in most American institutions. The poll compares the confidence of non-Hispanic white adults with those of Hispanics and blacks. The sharpest difference between the two groups was their confidence in the presidency. Fifty-four percent of nonwhites had confidence in the presidency compared with 29 percent of whites, a difference of 25 percentage points.

By double-digit margins, nonwhites also had more confidence in television news, Congress and newspapers. By smaller margins, they also were more confident in nine other categories that ranged from the church to unions to banks and “big business.”

There were three categories in which the confidence of whites exceeded that of minorities. These categories included small business (69-52 percent) and the police (60-48 percent). There was also strong support for the military (79-72 percent) from a broad cross section of Americans.

The poll notes that much minority confidence in the presidency is likely due to the fact that Barack Obama is the nation’s first black president. This is borne out when Hispanic and black attitudes are compared. Seventy-one percent of blacks were confident in the presidency compared to only 44 percent of Hispanics. While President Obama’s support among blacks remains high, it is sharply lower than the 93 percent he received in the 2012 election according to an Examiner analysis of exit polls. Obama received 73 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.

Over the past few years, nonwhites have become more confident in many institutions of government while whites have lost confidence. In a 2004-2006 poll, whites were more confident in the presidency by a margin of 47-32 percent. Gallup points out that part of the disparity can be explained by the fact that Obama is Democrat and minorities tend to favor Democrats.

There is some good news for Republicans in the poll in the decline in confidence in the presidency over Obama’s 2012 vote share. The problem for Republicans is how a party that is perceived to be dominated by whites can appeal to disaffected minorities.

The poll is an aggregate of interviews conducted in June 2011, 2012, and 2013 so the full impact of the recent scandals may not be taken into account.

Originally published on

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