Will Detroit Deliver The Black Vote

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    The Democratic National Convention is over. Now the real work begins for Democrats to energize their base for November despite what some skewed and twisted polling results have shown, that the turnout in the African-American community will be low in the presidential election.

    These so-called pollsters are already calling Election Day in Michigan for Gov. Mitt Romney, saying he is ahead of President Barack Obama in the manufacturing state. The polls also fail to realize that a presidential election is different from a local election, and the stakes are higher in a presidential season.

    Foster McCollum White Baydoun in a recent poll has Romney up by four points. This same polling firm released a survey in Florida, a battleground for Medicare and Medicaid showing Romney ahead of Obama by 15 points.

    Mitchell Research, run by Steve Mitchel,l said only 8 percent of Black voters will come out this year in the presidential election. Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Nate Silver debunked these results, citing exit polling and Census data that contradict Mitchell’s survey.

    “By contrast, Black voters represented 12 percent of the turnout in Michigan in 2008 according to exit polls, and 14 percent according to another source, the Current Population Survey. Blacks also made up 13 percent of Michigan’s vote in 2004 and 11 percent in 2000, according to exit polls. African-American participation is sometimes lower in midterm election years, but Blacks were 12 percent of Michigan’s electorate in 2006, the exit poll reported that year. (There was no exit polling in Michigan in 2010.),” Silver wrote in the New York Times.

    What data are these pollsters using to determine the outcomes in this election?

    Are these polls meant to sway voters toward Romney?

    I’ve always been skeptical of polls because I believe they severely underpresent minority communities, including the African-American community.

    Added to that is the fact that we are never told explicitly the kinds of questions that were asked of voters during the polling or how the questions were asked.

    We don’t know the economic status of those who are polled to determine how they will respond to two men with different economic visions for the country.

    One can always get the kind of answer they are seeking based on how the question is asked.

    Also in this age of social media revolution where most young people and minorities are on their cell phones much of the time, are these pollsters utilizing cell phones in their surveys?

    These sort of incorrect polling data serve as an opium to further discourage voters from the polls by concluding that one candidate is already winning.

    Also absent in some of these polls is the fact that this year a series of initiatives will be on the November ballot based on recent Michigan Supreme Court rulings, including collective bargaining.

    Collective bargaining is an energizer issue that will get a lot of voters who work in the public sector to the polls in November.

    And a majority of African-Americans work in the public sector rather than the private sector which is why the economic recovery initiatives from the Obama administration have to some extent helped those Black families that depend on public sector jobs for their livelihoods.

    We should not fall for the so-called polling surveys, especially when Census data and accurate exit polling from previous elections in Michigan contradict Mitchell’s survey as it relates to the Black vote.

    In a recent CBS radio interview I was asked why the majority of African-Americans should vote for President Obama given that the economy has not improved significantly?

    The question further centered around unemployment and the housing mortgage crisis, both of which began to severely tank under George W. Bush in 2006. When the administration took over in 2009, almost 750,000 jobs were lost every month.

    But the other issue that seems to be downplayed and perhaps not asked in this so-called polling is how President Obama has been racially vilified by the extreme right and the de-legitimization campaign launched against him.

    So my response in the CBS interview was that if in fact the opposition against the president thinks that the unemployment rate would discourage Black voters from the polls, they are fooling themselves because the actions of the extreme right against the president only serve as an incentive for African-Americans to turn out in large numbers. In part they will be coming out to allow the president to continue to clean up what President Bill Clinton called “the mess” George W. Bush created.

    Secondly, they will be coming out to rebuke extreme right wing politics which has during the last two years used race to stoke fires with their base.

    Why don’t these two pollsters in Michigan conduct a poll among African- American voters about how President Obama was called a liar in the halls of Congress by a Republican congressman, and his birthplace and education questioned. Ask Black voters in Michigan if they care about how the president’s governance has been repeatedly punctuated by these attacks, and whether such racist attacks will motivate them to the polls.

    Detroit, the most Democratic stronghold in the state, has to prove these pollsters wrong even though their data is already questionable.

    The fact is the Black voter decides presidential elections. No Democratic president has won office without the Black vote.

    So any effort to render the Black vote insignificant will fall flat because it is fact that Democrats have long enjoyed the African-American vote as its bedrock, before the large arrival of the Hispanic vote which has been growing in record numbers.

    All I ask of the pollsters is to do justice to voters by stating the facts. Tell us what questions were asked and how the questions were put to voters. Tell us the economic demographics of those polled. Doing so would be a great public service.

    Bankole Thompson is editor of the Michigan Chronicle and author of “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published in 2010, and his recent book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. Thompson is a political news analyst at WDET-101.9FM (NPR affiliate) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. E-mail bthompson@michroicle.com

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