African-Americans take a dim view of Herman Cain, but most black registered voters believe Cain’s race will not play a role in his ability to win the Republican nomination for president.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal/theGrio.com poll, taken before new allegations of sexual harassment were leveled by a fourth female accuser Monday, reveals African-Americans are more likely than white or Hispanic voters to perceive race as a potentially negative factor for Cain, with 26 percent of African-Americans saying Cain’s race will play a negative role in his quest to become the GOP presidential nominee. That’s compared to 18 percent of Hispanics and 15 percent of whites who see Cain’s being African-American playing a negative role.
Conversely, the percentage of voters of all races who see Cain’s race playing a positive role was statistically insignificant across the racial groups polled, with 14 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics and 16 percent of whites agreeing with that assessment.
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Fewer African-Americans (48 percent) see Cain’s race playing no role in his presidential run, compared to 55 percent of Hispanics and 58 percent of whites. Among Republican primary voters, 21 percent said Cain’s race will play a positive role, 12 percent said it will play a negative role, and 59 percent said it will play a neutral role.
African-Americans’ increased likelihood of seeing race as playing a negative role — and the 10-point disparity between white and black perceptions of race neutrality in the presidential contest, coincide with a steep decline across all racial groups in the belief that race relations have improved since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.
In January 2009, 46 percent of whites, 40 percent of African-Americans and 46 percent of Hispanics believed that race relations in the U.S. had improved, with the inauguration of the nation’s first black president. Today, only 16 percent of respondents in either group said race relations have improved, while 19 percent of whites and African-Americans, and 14 percent of Hispanics say they’ve gotten worse. Two thirds of respondents in each racial group said race relations have “stayed about the same.”
Cain would lose the black vote to Obama in a hypothetical match-up by a precipitous 93 percent to 6 percent in favor of the incumbent president. And Cain does no better than other hypothetical Republican contenders Mitt Romney or New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite having said that if he became the nominee, he could draw a third of the black vote away from Obama.
Cain’s troubles with African-American voters stem in part from his low positive ratings, which are under water in the poll, with 15 percent of respondents viewing him positively, versus 43 percent who view him negatively — a 28 point deficit.
Maurice Joseph, a 64-year-old retired public school administrator, former teacher and coach from Dallas, Georgia, said he isn’t paying too much attention to the sexual harassment allegations against Cain, because he’s already made up his mind about the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, who hails from his home state.
“I think he’s sneaky,” said Joseph, who adds that his opposition to Cain has more to do with the candidate’s positions on issues than his present scandal. “I think he’s a corporate person. I think the Republican Party and Herman Cain are the same. They think about corporations, I don’t think they think about America.”
Joseph’s distaste for Cain extends to the entire GOP.
“I think they’re single minded in their cause to get Republicans back in office and [Cain’s] doing the same thing, so that they can continue to rake in the money
and be as corrupt as they can possibly be, to keep the money in their back yards.”
David Peters, 54, from Clinton, Iowa, said he is closely following the Cain sexual harassment scandal. Like Joseph, he has no use for the man at the center of it.
“I think he’s sick, that’s what I think about it,” Peters said, referring to Cain as a “clown.”
“I think he’s ignorant. He’s just putting on a show,” Peters said.
Mary, a 40-year-old executive assistant who lives near Atlanta, Georgia, said she is inclined to believe the allegations by the four women who have accused Cain of improper sexual behavior.
“I’m usually biased toward the women,” in such cases, Mary said. “My position is usually that there is something there. But hearing and watching this kind of play itself out, and watching the coverage” of the latest accuser, who held a press conference on Monday, “I am pretty well convinced that this lady isn’t making this up. ”
Mary said the new accusations haven’t changed her perceptions of Cain because “he was not a candidate that I would have voted for anyhow.”
“I wouldn’t be voting for a Republican,” said Mary. “Living in Georgia, I am kind of aware of his political stances, having heard his radio show in the past
and I just don’t agree with him”
As for the accusations themselves, including two women who settled for $45,000 and $35,000 after filing sexual harassment complaints against Cain when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s, and a woman who came forward Monday to claim that Cain groped her and attempted to solicit oral sex in exchange for a job with the NRA, Mary seems disinclined to give Cain the benefit of the doubt.
“I hate to say it this way,” said Mary, “but he seems like the kind of man who grabs a piece of power and wields it over people who have less power and authority in the workplace.”
In terms of positive/negative ratings, Cain polls well behind President Obama, who enjoys a 92-3 percent positive ratings spread, first lady Michelle Obama (87-4), Hillary Clinton (82-5), the Democratic Party (72-11), the Occupy Wall Street Movement (45-17) and Michael Bloomberg (25-20). Cain is even bested by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose numbers are also under water with African-Americans at 13-28, and Mitt Romney, who shares Cain’s dismal 15 percent positive rating, but who has a slightly lower negative rating at 38 percent.
Cain isn’t the worst off, however. Texas Gov. Rick Perry scores just a 10 percent approval rating with African-Americans, with 47 percent viewing him unfavorably (a 37-point gap), the Republican Party stands at 15-64, and the Tea Party Movement rates lowest with African-Americans, at 11 percent positive and 65 percent negative — a whopping 54-point negative spread.
The poll indicates just 2 percent of African-Americans align themselves with the Republican Party — with that same number saying they would likely vote in a Republican presidential primary in their state, compared to 55 percent who would vote in a Democratic primary, and 41 percent who said they will wait for the general election to cast a ballot.
Based on the poll results, it appears that most African-Americans agree with Joseph’s assessment of the Republican Party and it’s would-be standard bearer.
“I don’t know how people without jobs or without health insurance can fall for what they’re saying,” Joseph said. “I don’t trust them and I don’t trust him.”
Joseph said he considers himself middle class, but he says, ‘I’m a people person and I just think that the Republican Party is not for the people. Cain fits right in with them.”
The poll, the first partnership between theGrio and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, surveyed 400 African-Americans between November 2 and 5. The margin of error for the survey is +/-4.9 percent.