Articles and Analysis


Obama & Clinton Among African-Americans

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

An update on my post yesterday on the surprising strength of Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama - at least for the now -- among African-American Democrats: The CBS News poll released last night, which included an "over-sample" of black voters, produced similar results as those I cited yesterday from the ABC/Washington Post poll.

Although the polls ask different questions, they both show Hillary Clinton leading Obama by nearly two-to-one among African American Democrats:


One critical question to ask before interpreting these results is, how well do African Americans know Barack Obama? The CBS favorable rating question differs from other pollsters (in a good way) in offering an explicitly "unfamiliar" option: "Is your opinion of Barack Obama favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven't you heard enough about Barack Obama yet to have an opinion? (emphasis added)"

While the CBS analysis does not break out their favorable ratings by race, it does provide results for all Democratic primary voters. While Obama is far from unknown, many Democrats (40%) still "haven't heard enough" yet to rate him (40%). All but 3% know Clinton well enough to rate her.


As per Mickey Kaus's item today, speculation will no doubt center on whether African Americans harbor doubts about Obama. Similar speculation preceded his 2004 primary contest, when Obama won virtually all of black vote among Illinois Democrats. The more likely explanation for the current standings is a combination of Democrats strong loyalty to the Clintons among African Americans (as noted by Kaus) and relative unfamiliarity with Obama among ordinary voters. Yes, he has been covered extensively and is well known to political junkies. But never underestimate how remote most political coverage is to everyone else.

Having polled for one of Obama's primary opponents in 2004, I can tell you that whatever doubts Illnois African-Americans may have had about Obama prior to the 2004 primary race, they faded fast as he began to run television advertising, move in the polls and receive routine coverage on media outlets (read local TV news) that reached real voters. The same could happen nationally should he score an early victory in Iowa or New Hampshire. Of course, his opponents in the Illinois primary were a far cry from Hilary Clinton in terms of their appeal to black voters. So, as with most of these sorts of interesting questions, we will have to wait for the real votes to be cast to know for certain.

And we have a long, long way to go before that happens.


Tom B.:

Thanks Mark for addressing the name ID question. The coverage in polls has been sorely lacking.


Patrick Thompson:

To me, this tells us something more interesting about "white America's" view of Obama, than about the African American's views. Clearly and surprisingly, Obama's ethnicity is not being considered as a primary factor in the viability of his candidacy. He is being viewed simply as an exciting, talented, fresh "New Democrat". And a sincerely viable candidate for the highest office in the land, irrespective of age, experience, race, etc.
This is quite refreshing.

It also shows how incredibly well Clinton has done at positioning herself not only as THE Democratic candidate, but as a candidate that can go truly go all the way. That she is receiving support at these levels from this core and key segment of the Democratic base speaks volumes about the long, effective, sometimes subtle campaign she has been running for most of the last decade, as well as reinforcing her potential invincibility.

Reagardless, having two candidates of this caliber in the race should be reassuring for Democrats everywhere.

Patrick Thompson
Hightstown, NJ


Chris S.:

The name ID question isn't broken down by race, but my guess is that blacks make up a disproportionately high %age of those who don't know who Obama is, simply because of the correlation between race and income/education, and the correlation between income/education and political knowledge. So maybe the reason why Obama does better among whites is simply because more of them know who he is. I'm guessing the campaign develops further, and more blacks find out who Obama is, he'll gain a lot more support.

Anyway, that's my guess. Have there been any past studies that break down political knowledge by race? That might shed some light on this subject.


jesse c james:

I was in Chicago during the run up to Obama's Senate campaign and the black community there adored him. The key point in this report is that Obama has a much lower familiarity w black voters than Clinton does. I will be shocked, as an African American voter, if Hillary Clinton gets 50% of the black vote in South Carolina.



if hillary or obama is elected, then i am moving to canada.



Jesse, if you haven't made the move to Canada yet with the president we currently have, then I don't know what you're thinking. What could Hilary or Obama possibly do, rig an election, start a war, lead the Americans into a recession? OOps, someone has already done all that.


Every Presidential debate in the era of television is quite the news item. Many Americans watch in order to gauge which candidate is going to pursue policies that they feel are best, in order to find out who it is they think they should vote for. Many voters today in America are becoming or have become disillusioned with our leaders and the political process, and so watch things like the debates with limited expectations, knowing that direct questions will most likely not be answered, and will sound like sound bites. The major newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe, hailed the debate as having “forced cordiality” and being “mercifully free” of personal attacks, and that was very true; neither candidate resorted too much to character assassination. McCain continued with “staying the course” and pursuing domestic drilling policies. (Hmmm….I wonder just who he was listening to on that one.) Obama was still criticizing Republican policies which he says got us into this mess of a recession in the first place. If the election were based on the performances on the debate , there’d be no clear way to say who it was that had won. America needs a clear proposal for action. Obama’s views on “predatory lending” which basically is sanctioning payday loan lenders is not a real solution. It’s basically an appeal to the banking lobby.



We are just really hoped that their promises would be taken into action. In conclusion I can say that are very convenient loans that should be used wisely.


Does this really suprise anyone? The African American community knows that Hillary will give them more free hand outs than Obama -- or at least she tells them she will -- in order to get their vote. They see the second coming of Bill Clinton -- and what a free ride they had during his administration. I would think they would want an articulate African American male in the Whitehouse - and not some "say whatever it takes" white women running the Country. Everyone is looking for something for free.


Aaron Evans:

I can't agree, that Obama is perceived just like a "new democrat". don't be naive, his race is the determinative factor. Just because it's the first case in history of the United States. In fact, for me personally there's no differance at all, if our president is African American or white. For me, what really matters is would I keep on living debt-life or shouldn't need to apply to payday lending any more.



I think, the colour of skin doesn't matter at all. Obama is not so popular as Clinton amoung African Americans due to some other reasons, but not the colour of skin, I suppose. Electing a president people have to be sure in his reliability and they don't mind what race he is. It's the same as picking up payday lenders according to the colour of skin. It's nonsense, isn't it.


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