- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

There was once a misguided theory that all black Americans look alike; now some people want you to believe that when it comes to politics, we all think alike.
But as the results of a recent poll shows, this isn't so and while black Americans still overwhelmingly identify with the party of Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson Sr., increasing numbers of blacks are expressing views similar to those of Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush's National security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
Consider the results of Black America's Political Action Committee's (BAMPAC) most recent poll of African-Americans conducted in June by Public Opinion Strategies. The survey of 1,000 African-American voters found national security and the war on terrorism more important to African-American voters than any other issue, found also that President Bush's approval rating among African-Americans has more than doubled in the last year (from 19 percent in BAMPAC's 2001 poll to 41 percent in 2002), and found significant frustration with the U.S. public school systems, coupled with increased support for charter schools and other school choice options.
While African-Americans were more supportive of the president and maintain high confidence in Mr. Powell (80 percent approval rating), nearly two-thirds of the respondents (63 percent) said the country is "on the wrong track." And that same majority said they favor replacing President Bush in the 2004 election.
While these results were somewhat expected, other results were very surprising and speak volumes as to the present state of African-American public opinion. Four out of 10 respondents said they believe the Democratic Party takes African-American voters for granted, an increase of 50 percent from 2001.
Among the 34 percent of African-American voters who have voted for Republican candidates in the past, a third has done so because they agreed with the candidate's issues or platform. While 13 percent of the respondents indicated they would never vote for a Republican, the vast majority (87 percent) who are open to the prospect were divided on what it would take, which shows that the GOP still has much to do to capture the hearts, minds and votes of African-Americans.
The poll shows that there is hope for the GOP, because many African-Americans hold views on issues similar to the Republican Party.
This directly contrasts widely held public opinion that all black political opinion begins and ends with the Democratic platform.
Significant majorities of the respondents (ranging from 51 percent to 64 percent based on the question) said they "favor school choice programs so parents can send their children to the school they choose." Fifty-five percent favored "enforcement of prohibitions" on the sale of violent and sexually charged music to children under 18. Fifty percent of African-Americans said they favor government policies that do not use racial quotas. Nearly half of African-Americans stated that the government's role in society should be limited; that "family faith and community" are the keys to a healthy society; and that "abortions are too easy to get" and other options should be considered.
For those politicians looking for signs of political realignment among African-Americans, the message is clear: The message is clearly doing better than the messenger.
Increasing numbers of African-Americans think President Bush and his team are doing a decent job and hold views not unlike the Republican Party's. But they are still skeptical of the GOP, thinking the party and its other leaders do not have their interests at heart. Therefore, when making a choice, the majority would rather cast their lot with the party they say "takes them from granted" rather than the party of Lincoln.
However, a key response yields a measure of hope for the GOP. A resounding majority of African-Americans (85 percent) agreed that promoting "strong moral values like personal responsibility and honesty" offers the best chance for improving society. Even the staunchest critics of President Bush have acknowledged that he attempts to follow this formula. Whether he and his party can convince African-Americans that the Republicans' messengers can be as appealing as their message remains to be seen.

Alvin Williams is the president and chief executive officer of Black Americas Political Action Committee (BAMPAC).

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