AP Poll: Obama Loses 6 Points Due to Race

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 12:03 PM EDT

If you haven't read about the AP poll on race and the election, go take a look.

To be frank, it's pretty disheartening. And not just in terms of Obama's electoral chances. It says some pretty awful things about America. Did you know that more than a quarter of white Democrats feel that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites"? And that nearly four in 10 white independents feel the same way? When given an opportunity to label blacks, 22 percent of whites agreed with the word "boastful," 29 percent reach for "complaining," and 13 percent go with "lazy."

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The write-up takes care to note that whites more frequently have positive things to say about blacks than negative things, and that many whites who feel negatively about blacks are still eager to vote for Obama (yay, exceptionalism!). But it concludes: "Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice."

A couple key questions. Will that 6 percent be erased by increased support among minorities? Obama will almost certainly do better among blacks than John Kerry, and he is solidifying the Hispanic vote as the election goes along. In effect, will Obama gain as many votes because of his race as he loses?

And will the 6 percent of voters who presumably would vote for a white Democrat be swayed if Obama performs ably in the three debates? If Obama defies every stereotype of blacks that these misguided voters believe in, will he be able to earn their votes? Or is racism beyond reason?

Update: Just saw something over at TNR — 42 percent of white Democrats agree with the following statement: "Italians, Irish, Jews and other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up; blacks should do the same without special favors."

Wouldn't you think Democrats who feel this way would support Obama, because he has done exactly what they think all blacks should do? If they honestly believed in an up-by-your-bootstraps worldview that was devoid of racism, they would applaud a man who has — through hard work, talent, intelligence and no special favors — beaten the odds. But in reality, just 61 percent of these Democrats back Obama, indicating that there is either (1) a distaste for blacks at the root of their answer, or (2) a suspicion on their part that no matter how well Obama hews to the "rugged individualism" ideal, he will begin dispensing undeserved handouts to blacks as soon as he takes office.

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