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Saturday, September 20, 2008

AP-Yahoo News: Race And Competency Drive White Democrats Away From Obama

With Rasmussen now showing Barack Obama with a one percentage point lead against John McCain, a new AP-Yahoo News poll finds that racial bias and competency doubts could cost Barack Obama the White House.

Rasmussen shows Barack Obama taking a one percentage point lead against John McCain for the first time in a week-and-a-half, bringing the polling figures back to where they were before both the Democratic and Republican Conventions were held.

Showing a disconnect from the polling results when issues of race and competency are specifically asked, a new AP-Yahoo News poll finds the two issues steering white Democratic voters away from Barack Obama.


The poll set out to determine why Obama and McCain were locked in such a tight race given the political landscape this election season which would suggest Obama should be much farther ahead.

The poll was conducted in conjunction with Stanford University and finds one third of white Democratic voters hold negative views towards blacks, but that 58 percent of those will back Barack Obama.

More than a third of all white Democrats and independents — voters Obama can't win the White House without — agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.

They find that 70 percent of self identified Democrats support Barack Obama while 85 percent of Republicans support John McCain. The survey also included racial attitudes among Independents stating they are likely to help determine the outcome of the 2008 election.

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible." When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.

Among white Democrats, one third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.

The surveys methodology was geared to bypass what is commonly referred to as the Bradley effect which many, including Democratic strategists and lawmakers believe the recent polls are plagued , by as was reported recently by The Telegraph.

The Bradley effect is named for black Democrat Tom Bradley, who lost the California governor’s race in 1982 even though he was ahead in the polls.

It refers to a tendency on the part of white voters to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a Black candidate, when, on election day, they vote for his/her white opponent.

To bypass that effect, the AP-Yahoo News poll interviewed people online after randomly selecting and screening them over the phone. They used this method as is explained in the article because numerous studies have found people are more likely to report their embarrassing behaviors and in this case, biases, when answering questions via the computer rather than speaking with a stranger on the phone.

Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."

Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they "try harder."

The survey also attempted to sort out the impact of a "huge swath of variables" such as race, ideology, party identification, the hunger for change and the sentiments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's backers.


The survey also concluded race is not the biggest factor for what is "driving Democrats and independents away from Obama," but instead it is the issue of competency.

More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.

Three in 10 of those Democrats who don't trust Obama's change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.

Clinton Supporters.

They found 59 percent of white Clinton supporters stated they wanted Obama to be president, with 17 percent of her white supporters saying they will vote for John McCain

Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries — particularly whites with high school education or less — were motivated in part by racial attitudes.

While the report from the AP-Yahoo news focused mainly on the racial divide they do state the larger issue influencing Democrats and Independents is the issue of competency.

The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.