Jackson and Powell Top List of Most Important Black Leaders

by Frank Newport

Whites and blacks have very similar views

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Secretary of State Colin Powell and the founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, are considered by blacks to be the most important national leaders in the black community today. The fact that Powell now ties Jackson among blacks is a change from two polls conducted in the 1990s, in which the latter was the clear leader on this measure. Whites today have roughly the same view of the most important black leaders as do blacks, although in a 1995 poll, whites were much more likely to name Powell as the most important black leader.

Who's the Most Important Black Leader?

A recent Gallup Poll (conducted June 12-18) asked Americans to name "the most important national leader in the black community today." Gallup has twice before asked this question, in 1993 and in 1995.

The results among the sample of 241 blacks included in that survey show a virtual tie for the top position: 18% named Powell and 17% named Jackson. All other names were mentioned by far fewer black respondents: 5% named NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, 4% named presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton, 2% named National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and 1% named California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Another 18% named a wide variety of leaders, although out of this group, no individual leader was named by 1% or more of black respondents. A third of blacks would not or could not give a name in response to the question.

Who do you feel is the most important national leader in the black community today? [OPEN-ENDED]

 


2003 Jun 12-18


National Adults

Non-Hispanic Whites



Blacks

%

%

%

Colin Powell

23

23

18

Jesse Jackson

18

19

17

Al Sharpton

3

2

4

Condoleezza Rice

2

2

2

Oprah Winfrey

1

1

1

Kweisi Mfume

1

*

5

Maxine Waters

*

--

1

Other

12

12

18

None/No leader

6

5

11

No opinion

34

36

23

* Less than 0.5%



These findings represent somewhat of a change from the results obtained among blacks interviewed in 1993 and 1995, when Jackson was significantly more dominant:

  • In 1993, 39% of blacks said that Jackson was the most important national leader in the black community, far ahead of Powell and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, each of whom received 3% of mentions.
  • In 1995, Jackson received 27% of the mentions among black respondents, substantially ahead of Farrakhan at 12% and Powell with 9%.

Who do you feel is the most important national leader in the black community today? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

1995 Oct 19-22

1993 Aug 23-25

National
Adults


Whites


Blacks

National
Adults


Whites


Blacks

%

%

%

%

%

%

Jesse Jackson

23

23

27

36

35

39

Colin Powell

23

25

9

3

4

3

Louis Farrakhan

6

4

12

*

*

3

Clarence Thomas

1

1

--

1

1

--

Nelson Mandela

1

*

1

--

--

--

Douglas Wilder

*

--

*

1

1

1

Ron Brown

*

--

*

1

1

1

Benjamin Chavis

--

--

--

1

1

3

Carol Moseley Braun

--

--

--

*

--

1

Other

7

7

13

9

8

14

None/No leader

5

5

11

6

6

8

No opinion

34

35

27

42

43

27

* Less than 0.5%



Powell's ascendancy on this measure among blacks no doubt reflects his current high-visibility status as secretary of state, but he was also in high-visibility situations at the time of the previous two surveys. He was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the time of the August 1993 survey (he returned to the private sector in September of that year). And, although Powell was out of public service at the time of the 1995 survey, he was receiving a good deal of press attention because his best-selling autobiography My American Journey was published in September of that year.

Louis Farrakhan's appearance on the list in 1995 was a reflection of the publicity given to his Million Man March on Washington, held in October of that year.

Whites Now Very Similar to Blacks in Their Views of Black Leadership

White Americans' views about the most important black leaders are very similar this year to those of black Americans. Twenty-three percent of whites name Powell as the most important black leader, while 19% mention Jackson.

Whites also mirrored the responses of blacks in the 1993 survey, when 35% mentioned Jackson and much smaller numbers mentioned any other name -- generally the same pattern found among blacks.

In 1995, however, whites were much more likely than blacks to mention Powell. Twenty-five percent of whites that year said that Powell was the most important black leader, compared to just 9% of blacks. Jesse Jackson received 23% and 27% of mentions from whites and blacks, respectively.

Powell's Image

Powell is one of the most highly rated national figures in Gallup Polls. His most recent overall rating, from a June 27-29 poll, is 83% favorable. In contrast, Jesse Jackson's most recent favorable rating (from the same poll) is just 38%. Fifty-four percent of Americans view Jackson unfavorably.

Historically, blacks have given much more positive ratings to Jackson than whites have. And, despite the fact that Powell shows up at the top of the lists of most important black leaders among both whites and blacks this year, the secretary of state has a more favorable image among whites.

The table below is based on the results of three separate surveys conducted this year in which the public has been asked about its views of Powell. As can be seen, 89% of whites have a favorable image of Powell, compared to 72% of blacks. The percentage of whites with an unfavorable image of Powell (7%) is significantly smaller than the 21% of blacks whose image of the secretary of state is unfavorable:

Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of these people -- or if you have never heard of them. First, ... How about...

 

F. Secretary of State, Colin Powell

 

BASED ON -- 1,950 WHITES -- MARGIN OF ERROR ±2 PERCENTAGE POINTS; AND 261 BLACKS -- MARGIN OF ERROR ±7 PERCENTAGE POINTS

 

Favorable

Unfavorable

%

%

Whites

89

7

Blacks

72

21



Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with -- 1,385 -- national adults, aged 18+, conducted June 12-18, 2003, including oversamples of blacks and Hispanics that are weighted to reflect their proportions in the general population. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. [Results for national adults on Questions 1-10 shown here are based on interviews with 1,006 adults, aged 18+, conducted June 12-15, 2003. For results based on this sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.]

Results for the sample of -- 821 -- non-Hispanic whites, aged 18+, are based on telephone interviews conducted June 12-15, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Results for the sample of -- 241 -- blacks, aged 18+, are based on telephone interviews conducted June 12-18, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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