- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

President Bush's approval rating has soared among blacks since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, scoring the president points with a group that overwhelmingly rejected him last November.

The most widely disseminated poll a Gallup survey conducted last month found that 70 percent of blacks approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling his job.

Another post-Sept. 11 poll, by the Pew Research Center, found that 49 percent of blacks support the president, up from 32 percent before the attacks.

"African Americans are very patriotic," said Dr. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, executive director of the Black Leadership Forum. "In a situation like this, it doesn't surprise me that African Americans on this issue are more in support of George Bush than they have been on other issues."

On the other hand, she said, "The question [of support] was asked after someone had tried to blow the country up I think all people can unify behind that. But any further support on anything else will come down to how he performs."

Last month's Gallup poll, conducted for CNN and USA Today, showed Mr. Bush with the highest presidential approval rating in the six decades it has been posing the question to Americans.

That query is simple: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way [the president] is handling his job as president?"

Congressional black leaders have been complimentary to Mr. Bush since the attacks, commending his resolve and strength.

During a brief speech last week, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Texas Democrat who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, said the president "deserves our support deserves the country's support."

"Go to any gathering of African Americans and you will find support for the defense of the nation," said Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat. "But at the same time, they will reinforce their position on domestic issues. Unless domestic policy changes, you will not see any wide support for the president."

Mr. Davis emphasized the patriotism of black Americans, adding: "In a time of crisis, people know that one of most potent weapons you can have is unity. African Americans feel compelled to be part of that unification right now."

Democrats express confidence that the president's popularity will fade among a bloc that has been devoted to their party since the 1960s.

"There is no concern at all about him stealing that bloc," said Maria Cardona, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. "Right now, the Democratic Party is 100 percent behind the president. But as we continue in this strange environment, the underlying domestic-policy issues are still there."

Lingering support from blacks hinges on the outcome of the nascent war on terrorism, said David Bositis, a political scientist at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

"The benefit he gets depends on how things turn out," Mr. Bositis said. "We still aren't even sure how the social issues will come back, in light of what is going to happen."

Ninety-three percent of blacks voted against Mr. Bush in last year's presidential election. He has struggled to achieve more support among blacks, even recruiting teams to assist him. His appointments of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pleased some black leaders, with even loyal Democrat Jesse Jackson praising their abilities.

But the president so far has been rejected almost wholesale by black constituents.

Mr. Bush was not invited to speak at last week's annual conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, and he was derided in July when he rejected an invitation to appear at this year's convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The president's mark in the polls eclipses the previous high of 89 percent scored by his father, President George Bush, during the Persian Gulf war in 1991. That support did not hold, though, as the elder Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in his re-election bid the next year.

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