Racial division persists in US despite Obama’s candidacy: poll

July 16th, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama

New York, July 16 (IANS) Americans are sharply divided by race heading into the first presidential election in which an African-American will be a major party nominee, with over 80 percent of black voters saying they had a favourable opinion of Barack Obama while only 30 percent of white voters have a favourable opinion of him. Black and white voters also diverge widely on the state of race relations and how black Americans are treated by society, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll published Wednesday.

Obama’s presumed nomination by the Democratic party, while generating high levels of enthusiasm among black voters, is not seen by them as evidence of significant improvement in race relations. Nearly 60 percent of black respondents in the poll said that race relations are generally bad, compared to 34 percent of whites.

Four in 10 blacks say that there has been no progress in recent years in eliminating racial discrimination; fewer than two in 10 whites say the same.

On who had a better chance of getting ahead in today’s society, 64 percent of black respondents said that whites did. That figure is slightly higher than the 57 percent of blacks who said so in a 2000 poll by The NYT.

The number of black respondents who described racial conditions as generally bad in this survey was almost identical to poll responses in 2000 and 1990. White perceptions improved from 1990 to 2000, but have remained steady since.

This month’s poll found that 55 percent of whites said race relations were good, almost double the figure for blacks.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted July 7-14 with 1,796 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Both black and white Americans agree that US is ready to elect a black president, but disagree on other questions about race in the poll.

Black voters tended more than whites to say that Obama cares about the needs and problems of people like them, and to describe him as patriotic. About half of them said race relations would get better in an Obama administration, compared to 29 percent of whites.

About 40 percent of blacks said that John McCain, the presumed Republican candidate, if elected president, would favour whites over blacks should he win the election.

Among black voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, Obama has 89 percent support, compared to a meagre two percent for McCain. Among whites, Obama has 37 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for McCain.

Overall, Obama leads McCain among all registered voters by 45 percent to 39 percent.

The poll also found that Hispanic voters, who seem poised to play a critical role in the election in states like Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, say, by significant margins that Obama will do a better job than McCain of dealing with immigration.

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