Mark Blumenthal | January 23, 2007
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.