African-American voters weigh in on Obama

A group of likely African-American voters offer their largely supportive thoughts on US president’s first term.


The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in the summer that found Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney among black voters, 94 per cent-to-zero, seemed almost unbelievable – really, zero?

But in dozens of interviews with black voters across the country – in coffeeshops in North Carolina, churches in Florida, college campuses in Colorado – I didn’t find one who planned to vote for Romney. Not a single one.

This doesn’t make for a terribly interesting story, mostly because it is a reflection of long-standing political preferences. Al Gore picked up 90 per cent of the black vote in 2000; John Kerry got 88 per cent in 2004.

Over the past five decades, only one Republican candidate has picked up more than 15 per cent of the African-American vote – and that was George HW Bush, in 1988, against the wildly unpopular Michael Dukakis.

A group of black voters from across the US shared their thoughts on the election and Obama’s first term with Al Jazeera.

Their reasons for supporting the president are varied: some say they appreciate his efforts to help the economy; others talked about his health care reforms; still others brought up his liberal views on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Watch the videos of their responses below:

William Barber

Barber is the president of the North Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

He rejected the idea that Barack Obama hasn’t done enough as president to combat poverty, saying that the president “fought an entrenched Republican-led Congress” to pass bills like his $787 stimulus package and health care reforms which have had a major impact on the poor.

Tyrone Gardner

Gardner reminisced about election night 2008, and how it felt to know that “someone who looks like me” could become president.

He blamed the Republican party for many of Obama’s failures. “I don’t even understand how they sleep at night,” he said, going on to praise several of Obama’s policies, like the health care bill. “You always hear the negative. You never hear the good stuff that he does,” Gardner said.

Thaddeus Washington

Washington, an air force veteran from Goldsboro, North Carolina, described Obama as “a president under a microscope,” and argued that racism was behind much of the opposition to his policies.

Washington did say enthusiasm would be lower for this election than in 2008. “My gut tells me it won’t be the same, because there was an extra added electricity on the fact that, here was a black man, for the first time, potentially becoming the president,” he said.

Sylvia Barnes

Barnes, a retired army reservist, said people “don’t know the impact” of some of the president’s policies, like his health care law.

She was particularly concerned about Romney’s views on entitlement programmes like Medicare and Social Security. “If we don’t get someone in there that’s going to continue with [those programmes], the impact that will have…” she said, trailing off.

William Lucas

Lucas, a Florida resident, predicted that voter turnout in the African-American community would be 75 per cent of what it was in 2008.

“That’s unfortunate, but I think that people tend to be discouraged by things that have occurred,” he said. “They know it’s not his fault, but it’s the fact that they’re giving him very little time to accomplish a great big mission.”

Francine Smith

Smith, a community organiser, remembered the pride she felt when Obama won in 2008, and talked about how her parents and grandparents might have felt about that moment.

She described herself as “extremely proud” of the president. “I never expected miracles. Because of the work that I do, I know the work he had in front of him… it was a huge amount of things that needed to be addressed.”

Joy Adroa

Adroa, a college student in Colorado, said that many of her peers were less enthusiastic about Obama – which she described as inevitable, given the challenges facing the country.

“It was already hard for anyone who might have been elected to come in and really do much… I think he’s done well since, from having to start there.”

Source: Al Jazeera