According to two polls released over the week just passed, President Bush has picked up significant ground among black voters. A New York Times poll showed black support for the president at 17 percent. A poll of larger scope done by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an organization specializing in studying black issues, showed 18 percent black support for Bush. Although black support at this level for Bush/ Cheney is still low, it nevertheless represents a doubling of the 8 percent of the black vote that the Republican ticket received in 2000.
In a race that seems to be shaping up as a neck and neck horserace, it can make all the difference for the president to pick up an additional 9 percent of the black vote.
Although some have expressed surprise that the president is notably picking up new support among black voters, those who have been reading my columns over the last several months will be less astonished by these results. I have been writing that traditionally Democratic voters in the black church going community are becoming disillusioned with the Democratic Party and that, in particular, the gay marriage issue has become a focal point of that disillusionment.
The results of the Joint Center poll, which was an extensive survey of current black political attitudes, bear out my observations. Support for Kerry among black Christian conservatives is now 49 percent, 20 points lower than the 69 percent that Al Gore received from this group in 2000. Bush's support among this same group, now at 36 percent, is more than triple what he received in 2000.
The black community is by and large a religious community. When surveyed, blacks respond at higher rates than whites that religion plays a "very important" role in their life.
The interesting reality over recent years has been that blacks have not taken their faith with them into the voting booth as do whites. Regular church attendance has been a reliable predictor of voting behavior among whites, with church goers disproportionately voting Republican. Among blacks this has not been the case.
The gay marriage issue may very well be the tip of the iceberg of change among the black electorate. Gay marriage, and claims equating the gay movement to the civil rights movement, has been a wake-up call. Black pastors and their congregants are waking up to the fact that the liberal agenda that they have been supporting all these years does not liberate but denigrates, dehumanizes, and enslaves. They are beginning to see the liberal agenda, the welfare state agenda, as a moral problem, undermining the dignity and responsibility that makes men and women free.
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