Black Voters More Likely to Forgive Weiner, Spitzer

A black voter in Harlem (Don Emmert/Getty Images)
A black voter in Harlem (Don Emmert/Getty Images)

Black voters have a tendency to be painted with a wide brush.

The majority are Democratic, and within that majority, most are Obama-crats. Among the liberal, they are the most liberal, and more likely to forgive politicians who have past indiscretions in their personal lives. Take this year's New York City elections, for example.


According to the New York Times, mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and city comptroller candidate Eliot Spitzer have found more-forgiving crowds at the campaign stops where the majority of faces are black.

Repeated polling has found a racial gap in the races for mayor and comptroller: black voters are far more likely than white voters to view Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Weiner favorably, and more likely to say they deserve a second chance. And the statistical evidence is reinforced on the campaign trail: last week, for example, the predominantly black audience at a mayoral forum in Laurelton, Queens, cheered Mr. Weiner and jeered at another candidate, George T. McDonald, a Republican, who called Mr. Weiner a "freak."

Interviews with black ministers, political leaders, scholars and voters suggest two major factors at work: an emphasis in black congregations on forgiveness and redemption, and an experience, particularly among older black voters, of having seen their revered leaders embroiled in scandal.

"You can't think of any major black leader that did not have some kind of legal or other kind of media attack, so we are not as prone to believe the attacks as other communities," the Rev. Al Sharpton said in an interview.

Mr. Youngblood agreed, saying, "When we as African Americans look at our history, our own Dr. Martin Luther King, or own Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, there has always been something in a person's life that others sought to use against their greater good."


The numbers in recent polls show the phenomenon to be true.

For several weeks, polling has showed a gap in the way black and white voters view the candidates. Shortly after Mr. Weiner acknowledged that his online behavior had continued for more than a year after he resigned from Congress, a Quinnipiac poll of likely voters in the Democratic primary found that 64 percent of white voters said that Mr. Weiner should leave the race, while only 42 percent of black voters did.

More recently, a Quinnipiac poll in the comptroller's race found that 66 percent of white voters said that Mr. Spitzer's prostitution scandal was a legitimate issue in the comptroller's race. Only 43 percent of black voters said that it was. And this week, a New York Times/Siena College poll found Mr. Spitzer with strong support among black registered Democrats — 57 percent backed him, compared with 37 percent of white voters.

Numbers aside, consider the overwhelming support from the black community for other scorned politicians in the past, like President Bill Clinton and in Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, and you can see why the forgiveness stereotype among black voters is hard to dispute. 

Read more at the New York Times.

Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.

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