The number of African-Americans elected to public offices at all levels of U.S. government has increased significantly since the 1980s. The largest gain has been in city and county offices, which include county commissioners, city council members, mayors, vice mayors, and aldermen/alderwomen. Barack Obama became only the fifth African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate and only the third since the Reconstruction period after the Civil War (1861–65) when he was sworn in as a senator from Illinois on January 4, 2005. He had received international media coverage after delivering a stirring keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
TABLE 8.3 Reported voting and registration of the total voting-age population, by age, November 2004 Adapted from "Table 4b. Reported Voting and Registration of the Total Voting-Age Population, by Age, for States: November 2004," U.S. Census Bureau, May 25, 2005, http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/voting/cps2004.html (accessed January 30, 2006)
|Reported voting and registration of the total voting-age population, by age, November 2004
|State and age
||Population 18 and over
||Percent citizen (18+)
||Percent registered (18+)
||Percent voted (18+)
SOURCE: Adapted from "Table 4b. Reported Voting and Registration of the Total Voting-Age Population, by Age, for States: November 2004," U.S. Census Bureau, May 25, 2005, http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/voting/cps2004.html (accessed January 30, 2006)
|18 to 24
|25 to 44
|45 to 64
|65 to 74
African-Americans and Political Parties
According to a Pew Research Center report, The 2004 Political Landscape (2003, http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=196), African-Americans are the strongest supporters of the Democratic Party. In 2004, 64% of African-Americans described themselves as Democrats, another 21% said they leaned toward the Democratic Party, and only 7% identified themselves as Republicans. While the rest of the country shifted toward the Republican Party after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 (9/11), African-Americans did not. The Pew Research Center reports that across regions, socioeconomic groups, and ages, the preference for the Democratic Party among African-Americans is uniform; the most affluent African-Americans' party affiliation is almost identical to the least affluent, and the Democratic advantage is only slightly smaller among younger people.
The traditional African-American political goals, as presented by the thirteen original members of the Congressional Black Caucus (founded in 1969), are to "promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens" (2005, http://www.cbcfinc.org/About/CBC/index.html). Government participation has not only been welcomed but also actively sought to correct the ills of the disadvantaged, many of whom are minorities. Some African-Americans are turning away from this position and aligning themselves with the Republican Party, which believes in less government involvement.
As the African-American middle class continues to grow, party loyalties may change. Some younger professional African-Americans who may not have experienced poverty or the deprivation of the inner cities may be attracted to the Republican Party platform of less government and lower taxes. A vast majority of African-Americans embraced the programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society and his War on Poverty in the 1960s. Today, a small minority believe that reliance on government has actually disempowered many African-Americans and other underprivileged people.