Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another reason why Romney will have trouble winning minorities

In my weekly column, I take a look at some interesting numbers -- minorities feel much better about the past four years and about where the country is headed than whites.

Obviously, that helps the incumbent.

Minorities are more pleased with Obama’s job performance, more sanguine about the country’s future, more likely to approve of the job Congress is doing and more positive about the past four years than are whites. And that makes minorities much less likely to abandon the incumbent.

Obama’s approval rating remains extraordinarily high among non-whites. According to a recent Fox News poll, 70 percent of minorities approved of the job he was doing, while just 23 percent disapproved. Contrast that with the 42 percent of whites who approved of the president’s performance and you can clearly see that minorities take a vastly different view of the past four years.

That disparity shows up relentlessly: Fifty percent of minorities think the Obama administration has succeeded at creating new jobs, while just 26 percent of whites say the same. Fifty-four percent of minorities think the president has improved healthcare, while only 30 percent of whites agree. And 64 percent of minorities think Obama has improved America’s image and standing in the world, while only 42 percent of whites concur.

All that leads to the unmistakable conclusion that minorities and whites seem to be viewing the same set of conditions differently. In fact, only 31 percent of minorities think the United States is in a recession, while 45 percent of whites think the same — this despite the fact that black and Hispanic unemployment rates are significantly higher than the white unemployment rate.

In short, most minorities think Obama has made things better, while most whites think he’s failed.
But there’s another phenomenon at work favoring Obama — one that might be indicative of something deeper than personal or partisan affiliation. Minorities seem to be more confident about the future and more optimistic that the government can produce a bright one.

For example, minorities are 14 percent more likely than whites to approve of the job Congress is doing. The Senate, of course, is under Democratic control, so it’s possible that partisan affiliation might explain stronger support, but that ignores the fact that the House is Republican.

Breaking it down a bit further, a recent NBC poll of one large minority, Latino voters, confirms this more positive view of government. Forty percent of Latinos said they had a “great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence in the federal government, while only 27 percent said they had “very little” or “none at all.” That faith in government far exceeded the group’s faith in corporations, the financial industry and even religious leaders and organizations.

And there’s one more good bit of news for the incumbent. In the Fox News poll, minorities were 10 percent more likely than whites to say the country has better days ahead and 7 percent more unlikely to despair about its future. That’s a 17 percent gap on a politically neutral question about the country’s direction.

All of this makes Romney’s task extraordinarily difficult. Not only does he have to overcome the usual partisan gap with minorities (according to the Fox News poll, he loses by 46 percent in a head-to-head with Obama), but he also has to somehow change their perceptions of the past four years and where the country is moving.

He has to get the majority who approve of Obama’s job performance to look less kindly on it, and he has to make the case that the last four years have been economically hard on minorities. Most importantly, he has to do all this before even making the case that he can do better.