by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action
According to a recent survey conducted by YourBlackWorld.com, 27.3% of African American respondents claim that President Obama’s most recent actions in Libya have reduced their faith in his leadership ability. Roughly 20.8% of respondents claim that the Libyan intervention has increased their faith in Obama’s leadership. Equally interesting is that over half (51.8%) of all black respondents to the survey said that the Libyan intervention has no impact at all on their perception of President Obama’s ability to lead.
The Your Black World survey (which had 658 respondents) is the first to document the African American voter reaction to the Libyan incident. The survey results speak to the fact that there is a broad segment of black America that is very concerned about President Obama’s decision to intervene in the affairs of an African country. Some are also wondering if Libya’s oil production means something to a nation (the United States) that is thirsty for energy.
Dwayne Wickham of USA Today has openly asked why the United States decided to engage in an humanitarian mission in Libya, but to ignore an equally horrendous situation in the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast’s president, Laurent Gbagbo, has killed hundreds in his quest to keep power. The Ivory Coast is three times larger than Libya, so far more people are being affected.
An equally interesting source of criticism has been the minister Louis Farrakhan, who has gone out of his way to speak against Obama’s decision to push Gadhafi out of power. During a scathing interview with WVON in Chicago, Farrakhan was quite vocal about his concerns. In a conversation I had on-air this week with Rev. Al Sharpton, the audience seemed to want to talk about the issue for the entire hour. Farrakhan’s opposition is likely connected to the fact that Gadhafi has provided financial support to the Nation of Islam in the past. Rev. Sharpton and I disagreed on core issues regarding the administration’s Libyan intervention, but Sharpton also has a better relationship with Obama than I do. Therefore, divergent opinions of black public figures can likely be traced to pre-existing political ties. This makes the issue even cloudier to analyze.
What’s interesting is that not all African Americans are concerned about Libya. In fact, there is a group within the black American population that loves President Obama no matter what he does. Some have referred to this group as “the loyalists.” For members of this segment, Obama can do no wrong and their steadfast support of every decision is partly in response to their concerns about strong Republican opposition to the president. Most interesting is that black voters are likely to remain more loyal to President Obama in 2012 than other liberal groups who have begun criticizing the president’s policies.
It’s yet to be determined if President Obama’s actions will significantly impact his support from the African American community. But what does appear to be certain from the poll is that there is a segment of black America that is deeply concerned about what’s happening overseas. Also, since more African Americans have lost faith in Obama as a result of the Libyan intervention (vs. the number that have increased their faith), it appears that the Libyan situation may result in a net loss of black support for the president.