An HCD Research national study of 431 Democrats found that most of them disagree with Geraldine Ferraro’s statement that, “Barack Obama would not have made it this far if he was a white man.” The study was done to analyze voter perception of video segments of Ferraro on Fox News where she defended her comments about Obama. Participants showed their feeling about her comments by scrolling their mouse left or right while watching the videos. Their feelings were then organized into quarter second increments and plotted on a curve. The curves are available, by clicking the link below.
Participants were asked two questions both before and after viewing the videos. The first question was whether or not they agreed with Ferraro that Obama would not have made this far if he was a white man. Before viewing the video, 29% agreed with Ferraro, 57% disagreed, and 14% didn’t know. After viewing the video, 34% agreed with Ferraro, 53% disagreed, and 13% didn’t know. The second question was asked, do you believe that Ferraro’s comment was racist? Before viewing the video, 48% said yes, 43% said no, and 9% didn’t know. After viewing the video, the percentage who said her comments were racist dropped to 43%. Fifty one percent said no her comments weren’t racist, and 7% didn’t know.
This study offers further evidence the Democrats don’t buy into the idea that Obama is doing well because he is black. However, Democrats don’t seem willing to label Ferraro a racist for her remarks. I don’t think that she is a racist. What she was trying to do was score political points for the Clinton campaign. Interestingly, once people saw the video, a majority thought her comments weren’t racist. I think that when people viewed the video, they could see that her remarks weren’t intended to be racist.
Her comments were intended to be political, but unfortunately for her, she made an argument that Democrats had already rejected in South Carolina. It is hard to believe that Obama is getting favorable treatment because he is black, but that was the crux of Ferraro’s misguided political jab. I think that it would be a big mistake for the Clinton campaign to push too hard on the area of race. Even if Clinton was able to split the party among racial lines, and win the Democratic nomination, she would need African American votes in order to win the general election. She recently apologized to African American voters, because she knows that she will need them in the fall. Democrats pride themselves on inclusiveness. Clinton either had to put a stop to this kind of behavior, or risked alienating a core Democratic constituency.