Poll Reveals Racial Divide on Opinion of Obama

resident Barack Obama holds a discussion on the economy with neighborhood families in the backyard of a home in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.


While Mr. Obama's approval rating among Americans overall has been mixed for a few months now, he receives nearly universal support from African Americans, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll.

Nine in 10 African Americans approve of the job he is doing overall, and as many are satisfied with his presidency. Just 37 percent of white voters approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing.

Additionally, nearly nine in 10 black voters are optimistic about the next two years of his presidency, according to the poll, conducted Oct. 21 - 26.

As they generally do, most black voters will support Democratic candidates for Congress in next week's elections. Two thirds of them say that even though Mr. Obama is not on the ballot this year, theirs will be a vote in support of him.

The poll also shows that more blacks than whites are optimistic about the future and think that life for the next generation of Americans will be better than it is now.

Views of the President

Mr. Obama receives high marks from African Americans on just about every issue.

As many as 88 percent of African Americans approve of the job he is doing handling the economy, compared to just 33 percent of whites. While most say the economy is bad, more African Americans than whites say it is in good shape now.

More than four in five African Americans think the president has made progress on many of the important issues facing the country, including providing affordable health care to all. Eighty-five percent of black voters said Mr. Obama has made progress health care, while just 40 percent of white voters said so. When it comes to ending the war in Iraq, 82 percent of black voters said they president the president has made progress, while just 56 percent of white voters agreed.

Overall, nine in 10 African Americans are satisfied with the Obama presidency so far. As many as 46 percent are very satisfied, while 44 percent say they are somewhat satisfied. Just 7 percent are somewhat disappointed, and 3 percent are very disappointed.

By contrast, just 36 percent of whites are satisfied with the Obama presidency so far -- only 8 percent are very satisfied, and 28 percent are somewhat satisfied. Another 29 percent of white voters are somewhat disappointed, while 34 percent are very disappointed.

The November Elections

In 2008, Mr. Obama rode a wave of support and enthusiasm from African American voters that helped sweep him into office. Exit polls from 2008 show that of the 13 percent of voters who identified themselves as African American, 95 percent voted for Barack Obama. (Forty-three percent of whites voted for Mr. Obama in 2008.)

The latest CBS News/New York Times Poll shows that black voters overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates for Congress this year, but not quite to the degree they supported Mr. Obama in 2008.

Now, 84 percent of black voters say they will vote for the Democratic candidate in their district, and just 7 percent will vote for the Republican. One in 10 aren't sure yet.

By comparison, more white voters say they will support the Republican candidate this year (51 percent). That's not unusual; exit polls show that more white voters have voted Republican than Democratic in past presidential and midterm elections.

Seventy-eight percent of African-American registered voters say they will definitely vote next week, as do 75 percent of white voters.

And while he may not be on the ballot this year, many African Americans will be rallying around the president when they vote next week. As many as 68 percent of black voters say theirs will be a vote in support of Mr. Obama, while just 28 percent say the president won't factor into their choice.

The Democratic National Committee has sought to take advantage of the African-American community's support for the president, by tailoring its get-out-the-vote message for black voters to depict the midterm elections as a means of showing support for Mr. Obama.

The poll found that 37 of black voters say that if the president supported a candidate, they would be more likely to vote for him or her. Sixty percent say it would not affect their vote.

Among white voters, just 17 percent say their vote will be in support of Mr. Obama. Another 34 percent say their vote will count as a vote against the president, while 44 percent say the president is not a factor.

Engaged in the Elections

Beyond vote choice, there are few differences between black and white voters in their engagement with the campaigns this year. About half of African-American likely voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year compared to previous elections, and just over half are paying a lot of attention to the campaign.

The anti-incumbent mood shared by six in 10 white voters isn't as prevalent among African-American voters. Forty-five percent of black voters think their own representative in Congress deserves re-election, compared to just 30 percent of white voters.

As they are among Americans overall, African Americans' views of Congress are highly negative. Only 29 percent of blacks approve of the job Congress is doing, and 61 percent of African-American voters do not think most members of Congress deserve re-election.

The Future and Race Relations

African Americans are much more optimistic than whites when it comes to the future. Forty-eight percent of blacks think the future for the next generation of Americans will be better than life today, and only 24 percent expect it will be worse. Among whites, 56 percent expect life for the next generation to be worse, and just 16 percent think it will be better.

However, African Americans are twice as likely (at 57 percent) as whites (29 percent) to say that white people have a better chance of getting ahead in today's society. Blacks and whites have expressed large differences on this question for many years.

Additionally, African Americans view race relations more negatively than do whites. In this poll, 40 percent of blacks think race relations in the U.S. are generally good, while more, 53 percent, think they are bad. By comparison 59 percent of blacks said race relations were generally good in April 2009, just after Mr. Obama's first hundred days in office.

Whites maintain a more positive view of race relations: 63 percent now say they are generally good.

Sixty-six percent of blacks think the media has been harder on Mr. Obama than on other presidents. Among those who do, 43 percent say it is because of his race, and 21 percent say it is because people expect too much of him.

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Read the Complete Poll

This article was corrected to note that the poll began on Oct. 21, not Oct. 22.


This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,173 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone October 21-26, 2010. An oversample of African Americans was interviewed, for a total of 273 interviews with African Americans. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The sampling error could be plus or minus six percentage points for the African American sample. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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