As the battle for the black vote in this year’s mayoral race captures headlines, recent media coverage appears to overlook Primary Day voting figures that show striking black support for Fernando Ferrer.
As the Voice reported last week, an analysis of Primary Day voting in the city’s 17 assembly districts that are represented by black assembly-members found that Ferrer drew an average of 45 percent of the vote—15 percentage points more than his black opponent, Virginia Fields, and 14 points above what a popular poll had predicted.
Ferrer appears to have done so well, in fact, that even though he faced a black candidate this time and didn’t four years ago, his support in these districts declined only marginally, by 5 percent. And despite the Diallo comments that sent his poll marks plummeting and outraged many in the black community, Ferrer carried all but three of the 17 black-represented assembly districts.
John Mollenkopf, a political analyst and head of the Center for Urban Research at City University of New York Graduate Center, says he sees these numbers as “a promising sign” as Ferrer prepares to take on Mayor Bloomberg in the general election. He said Ferrer did “remarkably well” among blacks in the primary election.
“It shows that a lot of black voters decided not to support Fields simply on the grounds that she was the only black candidate,” Mollenkopf says.
Because news organizations in this year’s primary did not invest in exit polls, (in which a voters identifies by race, among other characteristics, in saying how he or she voted), analyses based on assembly district have been one of the only ways to assess racial voting patterns. Polling samples are the other option. But recent poll numbers have fluctuated on a broad scale, suggesting that isolated polling results may be hard to gage. (Quinnipiac showed Ferrer and Bloomberg stacked at 46-39 percentage points among black voters last week; a Tuesday Marist College poll pegged them at 42-50.)
Skeptics, meanwhile, continue to point out that while Freddy’s black support may have declined only minimally from his 2001 race, the black turnout in this race was far below what it was then. That’s true: voter turnout in black assemblies was just 55 percent what it was in 2001. But turnout also declined across the board. As The New York Times reported, fewer voters from Freddy’s Latino base turned out than in 2001, with Ferrer winning the nomination with the votes of just 7 percent of enrolled Democrats.
Mollenkopf believes that, despite the low turnout among blacks, Ferrer’s numbers will continue to rise. “Undecided people often don’t vote in elections,” he said. “And if they do, they’re less likely to vote for the incumbent.”