At the start of George Bush's presidency, perhaps no group felt
more disenfranchised than African-Americans. Just 8 percent voted
for Mr. Bush in the last election, and the charges of discrimination
at Florida voting booths only added to blacks' grievances.
Now, however, the president is making strong inroads into one of
the Democrats' most loyal constituencies. Polls show that since
Sept. 11, the president's job-approval ratings have increased among
blacks more than any other group.
While much of this reflects the rally-around-the-flag phenomenon
that has boosted the president's popularity with all Americans,
Republicans hope to capitalize on the latest goodwill - no matter
"The White House recognizes there is this big opportunity because
of where the president stands with the public, and specifically
African-Americans," says Matt Dowd, a pollster with the Republican
The turnaround is particularly noteworthy, given that Bush tried
hard to court blacks in the 2000 campaign - and failed. He ended up
with fewer African-American votes than any GOP standardbearer since
Though many blacks note that Bush is still far too conservative
for them - and the gains will be transitory - GOP strategists know
they, at least, have a receptive audience for the moment.
According to Mr. Dowd's numbers, the president's approval rating
among blacks since Sept. 11 has jumped 30 percent in recent months,
to "60 or 70 percent." That compares, for instance, to the
performance of a critical swing-voter group - independents - whose
approval grew by 20 points.
Other surveys confirm the big increase. According to the
"battleground" poll conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas and
Democrat Celinda Lake, the president's job approval among African-
Americans jumped from 26 percent at the end of his first 100 days,
to 60 percent last month. That compares to a job approval -rating
among all Americans, which climbed from 58 percent to 85 percent.
Blacks outpaced the total sample by 7 points.
Mr. Goeas describes the growth in black approval as "huge" and
says it indicates a lessening of historical resistance to
Republicans. The significance, continues Goeas, is that it's
"breaking down those walls that have built up in the partisan fights
and class warfare that have gone on for decades. The debate is so
much more today a debate between Republican and Democratic solutions
rather than a debate over do Republicans care. …