By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Party undermines race among African-American voters; a new study finds, signaling a potentially hard sell for the Republican Party within this voting bloc. And it’s a problem that would likely not be solved by merely promoting Black Republican candidates for office.
“There are some very successful African-American Republicans, but those folks don’t attract African-American votes,” said the study’s author, David Niven, a University of Cincinnati professor of political science. “Party matters so much more than race.”
After the 2012 presidential elections in which Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama soundly trounced GOP contender Mitt Romney contributed by an historically large turnout among African-American voters, the GOP conducted a self-analysis and sought ways to stake a larger claim within the Black and Latino communities. Among those approaches was advancing Black candidates such as U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah.
Niven tested the efficacy of that approach in 28 heavily Black micro-precincts in Ohio’s Franklin County during the 2014 mid-term elections, during which two Black candidates ran for county offices: Clarence Mingo, the incumbent county auditor, and Rita McNeil Danish, who ran for an open seat on the county common pleas court.
The researcher mailed flyers containing a photo of the candidate and the office they sought to every household with a registered voter. But, one mailer, sent to a specific group, included the headline, “Endorsed by the Republican Party” while the other did not. A third subgroup acting as a control group received no mailer.
The results demonstrated that Black voters are more likely to vote for Black candidates—unless they know that those candidates are Republican, Niven concluded.
“Simply knowing the candidate was African-American did almost nothing for Republicans,” said Niven. “If voters knew the candidates were Republican, they finished below the top of the ticket. If voters didn’t know the candidates were Republican, they outperformed the top of the ticket.”
The University of Cincinnati researcher concluded that GOP outreach to minority voters are hampered by the party’s stance on issues such as immigration, civil rights and other issues important to these communities—a conclusion supported by Black leaders and political experts in previous AFRO reporting. And, too often, Niven added, Black Republicans reflect their party’s sometimes-myopic or dismissive views.
“The kind of African-American Republicans who have advanced to high office seem disconnected or even dismissive of African-American issues and concerns,” said Niven. “The bottom line is: For Republicans, it would help if they have some Colin Powell-style Republicans running for office and not [divisive former Ohio Secretary of State] Ken Blackwell or Mia Love.”