Memo to Ken Mehlman

An eye-opening NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reveals that President Bush has alienated African-Americans.

Published October 13, 2005 5:08PM (EDT)

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll contains the stunning information that President Bush's approval rating among African-Americans has fallen to 2 percent in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Because there only 89 blacks were interviewed for the poll out of a total of 807 respondents, the 2 percent figure is subject to a high margin of error, according to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. Still, Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who helped conduct the poll, "said he has never seen such a dramatic drop in presidential approval ratings, within any subgroup," according to Kurtz.

This has to be worrisome news for Republican strategists, who already have their hands full with the Valerie Plame affair, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers and the troubles of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, David Safavian and Jack Abramoff. In July, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman made a public appeal to the black community that included an apology for the GOP's past use of divisive racial tactics. Now, Republicans have dug themselves into an even deeper hole courtesy of the president, whose response to Hurricane Katrina gave the impression that he wasn't concerned with the plight of poor blacks.

The new poll has President Bush's overall approval ratings dipping below 40 percent. What's more, fewer than 30 percent of respondents think the country is headed in the right direction. There is evidence that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers hasn't gone over very well with the country either, with only 29 percent saying she is qualified to serve on the court.

Along with the president's sinking popularity, the poll found that 48 percent of respondents want a "Democratic-controlled Congress," while 39 percent prefer Republicans to be in control. The nine-point difference is the "largest margin between the parties in eleven years."

By Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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