What Divide, NYT?

Print More

racial divide.jpg“Poll Finds Obama Candidacy Isn’t Closing Divide on Race” goes today’s NYT headline, but looking at the actual poll, I’d say Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee have missed the story. Sure, black Americans are big supporters of the first major party black candidate in history. And sure, his candidacy has not altered the way they, as opposed to whites, see the state of race relations in the country.
But consider these findings: Exactly equal percentages of whites and blacks (69 percent) say they think most of the people they know would vote for a presidential candidate who was black. More whites (91 percent) than blacks (88 percent) say they would personally vote for such a candidate, while only five and six percent respectively said they would not–down from 25 percent in the aggregate in December of 2007. And both groups are in close agreement (whites 70 percent, blacks 65 percent) that the country is ready to elect a black president.
The story’s implicit idea that Obama, by his successful candidacy, ought to have altered blacks’ understanding of race relations is based on the assumption that that understanding is just in their heads. As if to say: “You see, race relations are fine in this country because the Democrats are about to nominate the black guy.” You might go so far as to call that assumption racist. On the other hand, on its own terms, Obama’s candidacy does seem to have made a difference. Because of it, lots more Americans–presumably mostly white–now say they would vote for a black presidential candidate. And there is no racial divide in their views of how people they know and their fellow citizens generally would vote in this regard. Ain’t that the story?
For the record, the poll has Hispanics favoring Obama over McCain 62 percent to 23 percent. That’s a gap 30 percentage points larger than the margin by which Kerry carried the Latino vote in 2004. More evidence that, for the general as opposed to the primaries, Hispanics are, for Obama, no problemo.
Update: Not surprisingly, the Obama campaign was also unimpressed with the Times‘ reading of its own poll.