Bush Improves Standing With Hispanics

Republicans' hopes that President Bush would improve his standing with black voters came to little or nothing Tuesday, but he improved his standing with Hispanics.

Bush was doing as poorly with blacks as he did in 2000, getting only about one in 10 of their votes, exit polls indicated. His performance with black voters in 2000 was the worst for a Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater (search) got 6 percent in 1964 in his race against Lyndon Johnson (search).

Kerry also led among Hispanic voters, but the gap was closer and Bush appeared to have made some progress on that front. Kerry had a 15-point lead over Bush with Hispanics — 56 percent to 41 percent — about half the margin that Democrat Al Gore (search) enjoyed in 2000. Bush, a former Texas governor, actively courted the Hispanic vote in both presidential campaigns and speaks passing Spanish.

Blacks made up roughly the same proportion of voters as in 2000, exit polls suggested. About one in 10 voters was black.

The proportion of Hispanic voters rose marginally, to close to 10 percent.

Kerry won Illinois' 21 electoral votes Tuesday night on the strength of black and Hispanic support, with whites in the Democratic-leaning state split evenly between Kerry and Bush.

The most important candidate quality to Hispanic voters was the ability to bring about needed change — about a fourth chose that, and they overwhelmingly backed Kerry.

The economy and jobs were important to black voters, cited by one-third of them as the issue that mattered most. Almost half of blacks said their own family's financial situation was worse than four years ago; only about one in seven said they were doing better.

Exit polls were conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.