With President Obama holding a three-point lead over Mitt Romney in the state of Virginia, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey, attention is being focused on the vital role that African Americans will play in this crucial swing state.
A piece in the Washington Post, which focuses on Petersburg, concludes that while black support for Obama may not be as vocal as it was in 2008—not as many Obama lawn signs and bumper stickers—it appears to be just as focused.
Dustin A. Cable, a demographer at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, told the Post that black turnout matched white turnout for the first time in 2008. Blacks make up about 20 percent of the electorate in Virginia.
“The big question is whether minority groups will turn out like they did in 2008. That’s not just in Virginia. That’s everywhere,” Cable said. “If they do, Obama looks great. If not, Romney does.”
Because blacks and Latinos still face high unemployment rates, their optimism about the president’s tenure appears to be somewhat muted, according to University of Chicago political science professor Michael C. Dawson, who studies race and politics.
“Most black voters are more liberal than the president is on a number of issues,” he said, but added that “most black voters also realize that any president is limited in how much deep structural change they can enact — especially when you don’t have majorities in both chambers of Congress.”
Salon owner Darrin Hill, 43, had an opinion that echoed many others among the 20 African Americans interviewed by the Post: Obama has not been given the full credit he deserves.
“At the end of the day, if he was a white president who has done the things he has done, he would be held in high regard,” Hill said. “He killed Osama bin Laden. He reformed health care after 40 years of trying.”
Elva Ward, attending a Bible studies class at Petersburg’s Tabernacle Baptist Church, said Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, which is opposed by her church, had not created a rift.
“There is a biblical position, but we have to separate church and state,” said Ward, a leader in the church, who praised Obama. “In the last four years, everybody in my family who was unemployed became employed.”