AP Poll on Race and the Election: Race Could Hurt Obama

How big a role will race play in the presidential election? Via an AP poll out today:

According to the poll released Saturday, a little over one-third of white Democrats and independents agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, and they are less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't hold such views.

....statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.

Full poll results are here (pdf.) AP analysis is here. [More..]

Al Giordano disputes the poll's findings and blasts a particular AP journalist with accusations you would never see on this site, but I'm including the link for its numbers analysis.

Nate Silver of 538 calls the Bradley Effect a continued myth and adds his thoughts on the AP poll.

Oliver Willis responds here with an uplifting photo of Obama and quote by JFK.

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    Race as positive factor (5.00 / 6) (#4)
    by Munibond on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:04:45 PM EST
    Is this being factored into the analysis?  I know a number of voters, including white voters, who consider Obama's race to be among reasons to vote for him.

    My first thought is... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by EL seattle on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:26:03 PM EST
    ...that I'd like to see the same poll done with the word "politicians" substituted for "blacks".

    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.

    Every month or so, polls come out giving approval ratings of "politicians", "journalists", etc.  These are always really, really, low.  I have no doubt that everyone has a few varying degrees of bias (racial, cultural, gender, xenohobic, anti-etc.), but I never quite understand the media reporting on those results.  I have similar reservations about this poll, but maybe that's just me.

    The AP's analysis seems to be pretty good here, but it jumps around a lot between taking a balanced view of the big picture (like this)...

    Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. 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.

    ...and dropping media buzzbits like this...

    "We still don't like black people," said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.

    This is definitely a big issue for our culture. (As if there was any doubt about that.)  But I think that it'll be too bad if we have to shoehorn a full discussion of this at the same time that we're dealing with the Iraq problems and the economy.

    It is a sad commentary on American culture (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by ChiTownDenny on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:27:35 PM EST
    that race is a factor to judge one's merit.  But we all know it exists, as we all know other "isms" exist in our culture.  That this should be surprising is, actually, surprising.
    IMO, the election will be determined by the camp that manages to GOTV.

    I was interested in the sampling (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by befuddledvoter on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:29:23 PM EST
    Over 30% have income under 25K.  36% are from southern states.  41% are unemployed.  Not sure this is a fair or representative sampling at all.

    Gee, ya think racism could hurt Obama? (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by ruffian on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:42:14 PM EST
    Many of us have noted the racism in our society, and the Republican party's ability to take advantage of it,  for years.  It should be no surprise that it will be a factor in this election.

    I hope the Obama campaign itself did not fall for its own post-racial, post-partisan rhetoric.

    One other factor in the analysis.... (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Oje on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:55:02 PM EST
    The normative assumption in Fournier's piece seems to be that, absent any prejudices about "blacks" (the wording of the survey), certain voters would otherwise chose Obama. In the AP article, this line is meant to stir up the Clinton - Obama grudge match anew:

    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.

    An election, and especially a primary, is not an either/or selection, or even (though the conflation of market research and opinion research  would prefer otherwise) that choosing a brand reflects pyschographic characteristics irrespective of the material product itself.

    A voter can be highly motivated for positive reasons to select a candidate, and also not be averse to another candidate due to underlying prejudices. As one of the above links note, something like 58% of those with negative responses (in this survey) about "blacks" indicate an intention to vote for Obama (and the premise that they will not act on that stated intention, the Bradley effect, is refuted by Giordano, Silver, et al.).

    Lastly, which response(s) is (are) symptomatic of racism? If you look at the results, question RAC14, on page 23, 84% of all respondents and 90% of all whites think that "blacks" are responsible for at least "some" of the racial tension in the United States. That can be read a couple of different ways, but after 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow, African-Americans are responsible for "some" of the racial tension???  If you consider that question a measure of racism, then we are all racists now... and we are voting for Obama by a wide margin.  

    That said, it is an interesting study and I wonder if someone at Stanford is going to provide a detailed analysis in a peer-reviewed article.

    Race (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by prittfumes on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 05:29:42 PM EST
    As many here are aware, I am "African American".  I began coming here regularly when I discovered that posters and most commenters are informed, articulate and literate. (I'm sure Joe Biden won't mind.) Folks here are likely "clean" as well. The poll you cite tells me nothing I have not known from the beginning. Thank you for making it clear in another thread that this is an advocacy site. If you have heretofore defined it in those exact terms, I must have missed it. Again, thank you for making it crystal clear. Now, I no longer have to wonder why comments that seemed okay to me did not pass muster. I still love your site! Please permit me to say that I am not now an Obama advocate but I remain open to that possibility.

    And age could hurt McCain, (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by tootired on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:10:58 PM EST
    and gender could hurt Palin, and large feet could hurt Biden. Americans prefer to elect tall people, don't like overweight people. FDR tried to hide his disability because it might be a turnoff for some. There is no doubt that Obama's race will keep some from voting for him. You run with the electorate you have and do your best to educate those who have prejudices. What chance would a 75 year old, 250 lb., 5 ft tall African American woman in a wheelchair have no matter how experienced and brilliant she was? Obama is lucky he's tall. ;^)

    Where would Obama be if (4.83 / 6) (#3)
    by nellre on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:02:41 PM EST
    there were no black racial prejudice?
    African Americans voted for Obama in the primaries at a rate of about 90%, right?
    I'm totally fine with that. I know how much I wanted Hillary, and one of the reasons is because I though she was the first truly viable female candidate in history... gender prejudice.

    Or is it only prejudice if you have a negative view based upon something like race or gender?

    I would call that gender or racial pride (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by steviez314 on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:04:48 PM EST
    not prejudice.

    Pride & Prejudice. (4.40 / 5) (#6)
    by lansing quaker on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:09:22 PM EST
    Okay.  It's pride if you're pro-Obama based on breaking a ceiling.  

    It's "vagina vote!" if you're supporting Palin.

    The metric is not the same.  It's not pride on either side of that divide; it's "one way is pride; the other is prejudice!"

    I've had some of my gay friends be called "Diva Voters!" about Palin, saying that gay men will vote for women because they're "fabulous!" and not by any other metric.

    Has this argument been used against Obama?

    You can either support indentity politics in toto, or you do not.  You can't say Obama is "pro" and Palin is "con" by the same metric.  Same went for Obama and Hillary.

    I encourage a discussion on policy.  Because talking about identity in this regard is creating a false equivalence.


    Jane Austin ... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:11:59 PM EST
    chose that name for a reason, because there's an intersection between those two states of mind.

    And it seems fairly clear how one feeds the other, whether you're talking about the English class system or racial attitudes in America.


    Blacks (4.33 / 3) (#16)
    by indy in sc on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:15:42 PM EST
    vote for the Democratic candidate at the same rates (near 90%).  Their effect on the race is going to be limited to turn-out.  It's not like we're talking about a group that would have otherwise voted for McCain that is now voting for Obama because he is black.  They would have voted Clinton, Biden, Dodd, etc. in the same percentages.

    This poll seems to be about people that might have been inclined to vote Dem this year that might not because of Obama's race.  I don't know the size of the effect, but it's worth studying.


    My 90% number (4.75 / 4) (#19)
    by nellre on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:54:14 PM EST
    My 90% number was for the primaries. Voted for Obama instead of Hillary.
    African Americans identified more with Obama than they did with Hillary. Nothing strange about that.

    Hmmm... (none / 0) (#27)
    by oldpro on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 07:33:02 PM EST
    well, I identify more with Palin than I do with Obama.  Nothing strange about that either.

    Surely you don't think that means I should vote for her?

    I don't do identity politics.

    If most people did, tho, what a different world it would be.


    Bush got elected (none / 0) (#28)
    by nellre on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 07:41:37 PM EST
    Bush got "elected" because folks identified with him more than Gore... or so some pundits say.
    "Who would you rather have a beer with"
    Same with Kerry.

    I think most vote with their hearts not their minds... although not those who frequent this blog.


    I don't understand how to comment on this. (4.60 / 5) (#1)
    by lansing quaker on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:57:47 PM EST
    Race may be "a" factor, but it isn't "the" factor.  You factor in gender (Palin), age (McCain), Bush (Republicans), taxes!! (Democrats), and you result in a whole host of ifs, buts, and maybes.

    But I don't understand this post, J.  Is it "Racism!" mongering, or is it just "race factors may or may not hurt Obama.  Hmmm.  Intersesting."

    I can comment on the former; the latter just leads to "what is it I am allowed to say?

    You can poll-test for a host of social identity metric.  Any.  Race, Gender, Age.

    I don't see why "Race" is now the qualifier.  It sounds like you're buttressing the cushion that "If Obama loses, it was RACISM!"  

    Something we decried in the Primaries when we were on Hillary's side.

    I just don't get it.  

    Personally (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by Coral on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:36:05 PM EST
    Seat-of-the-pants gut-feeling is that race has been and is continuing to be overplayed as an issue in this election.

    Trumping race are the usual GOP smear politics (they will use and say anything) and the severity of the economic crisis that is now playing out dramatically.

    Obama has just recently begun to reach out in plain language on kitchen-table issues (like social security). If he continues in this vein, he will win the election.

    Would a white guy do better? Don't know. All things being equal, maybe, but there are many factors. More important than race is the ability of a candidate to reach out to voters and communicate that he (or she) is one of them and on their side.


    If you don't know how to comment, ... (none / 0) (#20)
    by cymro on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 05:08:37 PM EST
    ... faux outrage seems to be in vogue these days. I've been seeing far too much of it. I'm hoping blogs and bloggers will regain their sense of perspective after the election is over.

    I find these kind of polls remarkably meaningless (none / 0) (#2)
    by steviez314 on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:00:40 PM EST
    1.  More likely/less likely means nothing unless it CHANGES your vote.

    2.  Even if 20% of Hillary supporters really vote for McCain, that would even be less than 10% of all Democrats (20% times her 50% of primary vote, and remember some of those were I's and R's).  Even Bush got 13% of Democrats vs. Kerry.

    3.  Oh yeah, none fo the polls are showing that kind of effect anyway.

    Oy Vey! (none / 0) (#7)
    by NYShooter on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:22:19 PM EST
    So what does this mean?

    Real Clear Politics Poll of electoral votes

    No toss up states....Obama/Biden +8, Counting toss ups...McCain/Palin +14

    That "no toss ups" measure ... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:02:43 PM EST
    hasn't changed despite the shifting in polls.  It's essentially been stuck at that number since some time in August.

    This suggests that these bounces are truly on the margins.  And that this race is essentially where it's been since late august.  Tied.


    I think (none / 0) (#14)
    by call me Ishmael on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:03:50 PM EST
    that is because they are predicting that most of the toss up electoral votes will go Obama's way.  If you just take the non-tossup states then McCain is ahead.  Does that help

    Lol (none / 0) (#17)
    by Faust on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 04:35:27 PM EST
    Giordano basically calls Fournier a concern troll.

    I'm going to have to agree.

    Race (none / 0) (#21)
    by codekeyguy on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 05:17:07 PM EST
    Who knew?  Republicans were/are always accused of being racist.  Now it turns out some Independents and DEMOCRATS harbor similar tendencies.  How can this be?  
    I guess the dirty little secret is that racism knows no political boundary. I also guess, in the interests of fairness, the word "EVIL" should be applied equally to both parties.
    (slight intended sarcasm)

    It's true.... (5.00 / 4) (#23)
    by Dr Molly on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:07:16 PM EST
    I guess the dirty little secret is that racism knows no political boundary.

    And neither does sexism. Lots of dirty little secrets exposed this past year about democrats. Plenty of racism and sexism to go around all sides. And plenty of mean-spiritedness on all sides. And plenty of good people on all sides. I've learned a lot - I used to think it was more straightforward, left good, right bad. Not so.


    A discussion of this and major methodology (none / 0) (#25)
    by Cream City on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:17:42 PM EST
    issues with this survey was in the Open Thread before this post, for those interested.  Actually, I think it's continuing over there. . . .

    Consider the author (none / 0) (#26)
    by jen on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 07:09:15 PM EST
    I believe this article (and its accompanying "poll"), much like that of his right wing colleague Jonah Goldberg's earlier prediction of "race riots" should Obama lose the election, are designed to stir up and foster racial tensions - and inject yet deeper wedgey divisions within the Dem party. Please don't neglect Fournier's easily bunkable reputation and background as an extremely biased "journalist" in accepting this bit of writing at face value. I wouldn't take a thing that man writes as reporting or journalism. He should be viewed as one would a campaign surrogate, which he nearly was.

    The AP did all its critical musical chairs shifts in this past year - in preparation for this election coverage...

    Fournier was recently appointed Bureau Chief of the AP, Washington Bureau. Also this year, the AP took on Sam Zell and Rupert Murdoch to sit on their Boards... It was recently revealed that Fournier talked to top McCain campaign operatives in 2007 about becoming a senior McCain political adviser.

    Media Matters on Fournier.

    shameless (none / 0) (#29)
    by isaac on Sun Sep 21, 2008 at 05:13:02 PM EST
    race hawking by the AP, a truly disgraceful and disgraced news org