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Survey: Blacks Less Interested in Iraq, More Concerned with Jobs, Economy

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Jackson, Miss.

By. Nikki Burns
Special to the NNPA from The Mississippi Link

In September, President Bush challenged world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a resolution that would deal with Iraq’s failure over the last 11 years to comply with resolutions or stand aside as the United States acted.

After running into resistance, the United States has been revamping its initial proposal, which would strengthen U.N. weapons inspections, declare Iraq in “material breach’’ of its obligations to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and threaten “serious consequences’’ if it fails to cooperate with inspectors.
Despite the nightly news updates of the looming possibility of war with Iraq, according to a recent poll conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, only 6 percent of Blacks in America see the war as a key concern and only 19.2 percent of them support it.
“African-Americans, like the rest of the population, are very concerned about terrorism,” said Eddie N. Williams, president of Joint Center. “Our poll shows, however, that they are still not convinced by the administration’s push for a war with Iraq.”
The poll, which was conducted between Sept. 17 and Oct. 21 and surveyed 1,647 adults around the country (850 of which were African-Americans), marked the first time Joint Center asked African-Americans to rate the United Nations and the leadership of specific foreign countries including Cuba, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
“African-Americans are rarely polled on foreign affairs issues unrelated to Africa and we felt it was important to get their views,” said David A. Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center, who supervised the survey. “To a large degree, they expressed similar sentiments as the general population.”
The Joint Center, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, which conducts research and analysis on public policy issues of concern to African-Americans and other minorities, also surveyed 850 members of the general population.
The survey was fielded shortly after Labor Day and the start of the political season when many Americans usually start to pay more attention to what is said by their elected officials and those hoping to replace them. However, the media put coverage of the midterm elections on the back burner and gave the Washington, D.C.-area sniper and Iraq most of its attention. National issues such as employment/economy (jobs, poverty, homelessness, hunger) and terrorism topped African-Americans’ list as the most important problem facing the country today. Whites and the general population listed world affairs (foreign policy, terrorism, world economy, lack of leadership, war) as the main problem facing America, with employment and economy a distant second.
Hilliard L. Lackey, a history professor at Jackson State University, said that one of the reasons Blacks aren’t strongly in support of a war with Iraq and don’t see it as a key concern is “we always think that it is somebody else’s problem.”
“White people started it, White people know what they are doing and White people are manipulating it, so it’s their problem. It’s not a very profound analysis…,” said Lackey.
Lackey said in 1970, when several people were killed and wounded after the National Guard was ordered to the campus of Kent State to silence the protests of those who disagreed with President Nixon’s orders to bomb Cambodia, a reporter asked him if Jackson State students were equally as upset over the bombing.
“I said no, they couldn’t care less. We care when it comes to us about going to war, about African-Americans actively participating in war and being shot, but other than that, there is no particular interest in these things,” said Lackey.
For example, when asked if terrorism alone was the most important problem facing the country, 17 percent of Blacks said yes, compared to 27 percent of Whites and 24 percent of the general population. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the employment rate and the economy has taken some strong hits, causing Blacks to assess the situation more personally than Whites.
If Blacks are generally more concerned with “day-to-day living and less about the big picture,” Lackey said, it’s because Blacks are still struggling in a lot of other areas. “The engine of history is a struggle between the haves and the have nots.
“If the haves are looking elsewhere, it only means that they are satisfied. But Martin Luther King said if there was not the struggle for civil rights, he could’ve been doing something else,” said Lackey. “So if Black folk weren’t struggling for economic betterment and employment, maybe they could concentrate on something else. Maybe they could parade down in front of abortion clinics or have a walk for diabetes. Maybe it’s peculiar to the have nots to not have a worldview. If you have the bare necessities, then you could have the luxury of worrying about folks on the other side of the world.”
However, for the third year in a row, Blacks responded more favorably than Whites when asked if they were financially better off than they were a year ago.
The survey also showed that Blacks more than likely continued their overwhelmingly loyal support for the Democratic party during the midterm elections by more than 70 percent, despite another finding claiming that fewer Blacks identify themselves as Democrats, compared to the Joint Center’s 2000 study.
According to the study, African-Americans, liberals and Democrats view the current presidential administration and its policies much less favorably than others and think the country has “gotten off on the wrong track.” Although Blacks personally view Bush more favorably today than in 2000, they still consider his performance to be mediocre at best.
Not surprisingly, African-Americans continue to view former President Clinton favorably, by a whopping 80.9 percent, compared to 51 percent of the general population. Within the current administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell was the most popular figure, receiving a favorable rating of 73.3 percent, surpassing Bush’s 50.8 percent; followed by Vice President Dick Cheney’s 43.2 percent and National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice’s 41.1 percent.

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