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Jan. 29, 2008

Survey Determines African-American Votes are Up for Grabs in Democratic Party

Results from an opinion survey (pdf) on “Racial Attitudes and the Presidential Nomination,” conducted by Fredrick Harris, professor of Political Science at Columbia University and director of the Center on African American Politics and Society, show that African-American votes are up for grabs for both leading candidates of the Democratic Party and the skin color of the candidate will not automatically translate into African-American votes.

Click to enlarge image
Click image to enlarge

One of the largest racial differences in attitudes was in response to whether the tradition of New Hampshire holding the first primary should continue.  Nearly 60 percent of blacks, compared to 44 percent of whites think the tradition should be eliminated.

“The study reveals the enormous value black voters place on diversity in evaluating the effectiveness of the presidential nomination process,” says Harris.  “Like most voters, blacks value the process producing a candidate that can win the general election, but they place far greater emphasis on the process giving minorities a voice, and producing an ideologically and regionally diverse ticket.  Clearly, black voters are both pragmatic and idealistic, balancing candidates’ electability with candidates’ commitment to racial, regional and ideological diversity.”

Fredrick Harris

While both blacks and whites see electability as an issue, more blacks than whites – 76 percent to 65 percent – think that producing a winning candidate is very important.

However, the starkest difference in responses is the importance placed on giving minorities a voice in the nomination process—blacks and other minorities want their issues and interests addressed during the nomination process.  This also means that blacks want to have an influence in the outcome of the Democratic Party’s nominee, since about 90 percent of blacks identify with the Democratic Party. About three quarters of blacks (76%) view this value of having a voice and influence in the nomination process as compared to 56 percent of whites, a difference of 20 percentage points. 

In the survey, 61 percent of blacks identified as Democrats, only 6 percent as “Republicans” and 24 percent said they were independents. 

Diversity is a value that blacks emphasized in different ways throughout the survey.  Regarding regional diversity on the ticket, 61 percent of blacks compared to 42 percent of whites believe that the presidential and vice-presidential nominees representing different regions of the country is very important.  Also, blacks distinguished themselves from whites by 63 percent recognizing a need for ideological diversity compared to 40 percent of whites. For blacks, a strong majority favor having a presidential and vice-presidential ticket in which the nominees do not hold the same ideological views, but rather a mixture of liberal and conservative views are represented.

 - Story by Tanya Domi