If the Republicans' 2012 presidential election strategy rests on a perceived miasma of indifference toward President Obama by black and Hispanic voters, they may have to think again.
A survey of black and Latino voters conducted by Brilliant Corners for New York University's Women of Color Policy Network shows 90 percent of respondents saying they are very likely to vote in the presidential election. At the same time, President Obama continues to score high approval ratings among minority voters, with 84 percent approving of the way he is doing his job.
Data from the survey is being presented at Engage2012 (pdf), a conference hosted by NYUWCPN Dec. 8-9. The Root will be participating in the opening event on Dec. 8, which is open and free to the public.
"There had been a lot of speculation that minority turnout would be lower in 2012," said C. Nicole Mason, executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network. "There was a perception that the change that Obama promised in '08 wasn't coming fast enough and that the president wasn't doing enough about high unemployment."
Some respondents expressed that type of frustration, Mason said, but it doesn't appear to be enough to keep people at home on Election Day.
"The poll confirms that blacks and Latinos are poised to vote," she added.
The poll was conducted over two days in November in nine battleground states (Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada and Missouri), where the presidential race is expected to be particularly competitive. There were 800 respondents, 63 percent black and 37 percent of Hispanic heritage.
While Obama retains his favorable ratings, Congress and the Republicans are viewed more critically. Seven out of 10 disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, and 58 percent view the Republicans as the biggest threat to the president's success because they are "simply out to block everything the president tries to do."
While Obama's approval rating among blacks is sky-high at 93 percent, the president scores significantly lower among Latinos, at 69 percent.
"Latino support is not something the president can take for granted in 2012," Mason said. "His appointment of Katherine Archuleta [as the national political director of his campaign] points to the need for a major mobilization among Latinos." Archuleta is a former city official in Denver and most recently served as the Department of Labor staff director under Secretary Hilda Solis.
Despite possible Democratic concerns, the Hispanic approval rating for Obama closely mirrors his support in the 2008 election, when 67 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama, according to the Pew Research Center.
Asked about the greatest hurdles to the advancement of minorities, 35 percent of respondents cited lack of jobs in their communities, and 34 percent cited failing schools that don't properly prepare minority children for the future.
Despite almost three years with a black president in the White House, 74 percent said that race relations had either stayed the same since 2008 or worsened since 2008.
Asked about initiatives or laws in some states stiffening voter identification requirements — measures viewed by Democrats as attempts to keep minority voter turnout low — few respondents expressed concern. Sixty-four percent said that such changes would have no effect on voting, while only 27 percent said the new laws would be somewhat discouraging or very discouraging to minority voters.
Edmund Newton is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area.