More on "The black-white divide in Obama's popularity"
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
04/30/09 10:12 AM
A few commentators on the left are calling me a racist for my post, "The black-white divide in Obama's popularity." I suppose if you haven't been called a racist by the usual suspects on the left, you haven't been writing for very long. But to address their complaint:
The accusations of racism seem to come from a single sentence in the piece: "But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." I wrote my post because of the striking numbers in the New York Times poll. Those numbers raise a question: What if a president were wildly popular with one group, and only middlingly popular with another group and yet was often portrayed as being hugely popular with the whole group? It seems worthwhile to point that out that there are differences within the group -- something that is done all the time with political polls. The president's job approval ratings are what they are -- the Times had him at 69 percent approval -- but the numbers inside the numbers are striking.
For example, according to the Times, 34 percent of white Americans believe the country is on the right track, while 70 percent of black Americans believe the country is on the right track. Fifty-five percent of white Americans approve of President Obama's handling of the economy, while 91 percent of black Americans do. And black Americans, who as a group have a higher unemployment rate than white Americans, have a more positive view of the economy than whites: 27 percent of blacks say the economy is "very good" or "fairly good," while just 10 percent of whites call the economy "fairly good" (and none say it is "very good").
Perhaps some people find those numbers entirely uninteresting, but I think it is entirely reasonable to point them out. It is also entirely reasonable to point out that a poll result can be shaped by an extremely high number in one component of the poll result. It's the old joke: Six people are in a bar. They're all middle class; their average net worth is about $100,000. Bill Gates walks in. Seven people are in a bar; their average net worth is in the billions. A wealthy group, right? Internal numbers are revealing.
So I wrote that citing Obama's "sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." I thought the word "overall" conveyed the idea that there was a difference between the total job-approval number and the complexities of opinion of Obama on various issues. Maybe "across-the-board" would have been better than "overall," but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist like Matthew Yglesias, or Andrew Sullivan, who has himself been accused of racism and, quite recently, anti-Semitism, from branding me a racist. The numbers inside the Times poll are newsworthy, if the critics would take the time to read and analyze them.