Survey: Obama's Base Focused on Jobs

The Root's annual Rating Obama poll showed high marks in other areas, but a B minus on this key issue.

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As he prepares to give the State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama has reason to be cautiously optimistic about the support he will get from his base for his re-election bid. However, to cement their support, he will need to focus on the issues that are most important to them in the 2012 campaign season: job creation and unemployment.

This is the takeaway from an online survey of 437 people conducted by The Root Jan. 19-20, consisting of 325 black and 112 white respondents. Of those choosing to participate in The Root's annual survey of views on President Obama and policy concerns, 77 percent of blacks identified as Democrat, 20 percent as independent and 1 percent as Republican.

Most of the whites participating identified as Democrats (67 percent), while 22 percent identified as independents and 6 percent as Republicans. By comparison, nationally 86 percent of blacks and 39 percent of whites identify as Democrat, while 8 percent of blacks and 52 percent of whites identify as Republican, according to the Pew Center for People & the Press.

Making the Grade but Sometimes Missing the Mark

The president received high marks from respondents for his performance on health insurance reform, national security and foreign policy, reflecting high-profile achievements of his tenure, such as the Affordable Care Act and the assassination of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Forty-two percent gave Obama an A grade on his leadership abilities, with overwhelming majorities of both black (98 percent) and white (92 percent) respondents indicating that the president was either "somewhat" or "very" likely to win re-election in November.

However, job creation was the most important issue among those surveyed, one for which only 15 percent of respondents gave him an A, while 39 percent gave him a B and 32 percent handed out a C. But Congress fared much worse, earning an F on the issue from 63 percent of respondents.

In addition, two-thirds (67 percent) of both black and white voters held Congress more responsible than the president for the legislative gridlock in Washington. Blacks were most vocal in pointing the blame at Congress -- and Republican lawmakers specifically -- for making the president's job harder.

"The president has put forth great ideas, but has been blocked by a Congress whose main purpose is to see the president fail, no matter what," one black survey participant wrote in an open-ended response.

What Matters Most to Voters

The most important issues to black respondents "leading up to the 2012 presidential election" were creating jobs/reducing unemployment (81 percent chose this option), followed in descending order by reducing poverty, education, health insurance reform and income inequality. For whites the most important concerns were creating jobs/reducing unemployment (65 percent chose this), followed in descending order by health insurance reform, income inequality and education.