A new national study by HCD Research of 798 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents found that an across party lines majority said that they were less likely to support Barack Obama after viewing video segments of sermons given by his pastor Jeremiah Wright. In the video segments, Wright makes racially charged comments towards Hillary Clinton, and calls the United States racist. While viewing the segments, respondents moved a mouse left to right to measure their level of agreement with what they were viewing. (To view the response curves, click the link below).
Participants were asked questions about their support for Obama both before and after viewing the segments. After viewing the video, respondents were asked if they were more or less likely to support Barack Obama? 71% of Republicans, 54% of Independents, and 52% of Democrats said that they were less likely to support Obama. Before and after viewing the video participants were asked if Obama’s relationship with Wright will help or hurt his campaign. Only 6% of Democrats, 5% of Independents, and 2% of Republicans thought it would help. 71% of Republicans, 65% of Independents, and 64% of Democrats thought it would hurt, and 30% of Democrats, 30% of Independents, and 27% of Republicans didn’t know.
After viewing the video segments, 9% of Independents, 7% of Democrats, and 6% of Republicans said it would help him. However, 84% of Republicans, 78% of Independents, and 77% of Democrats said that it would hurt him. Only 16% of Democrats, 14% of Independents, and 10% of Republicans said that they didn’t know. This is why the speech that Obama is going to give on race tomorrow is so important. Most people can over look when a supporter or surrogate goes off the deep end, but a pastor has a more personal connection to a candidate.
I don’t think this is the type of story that could sink, or even do long term damage to the campaign, but it does raise a few questions. Why did Obama select this particular church? Even though he has said repeatedly that he disagrees with Wright’s comments, has he ever voiced his disagreement? Why would he continue to be a member of a church where he disagrees with some of the pastor’s sermons? To me this is not a big issue, but judging from the study, it seems to resonate strongly with some voters. If Obama addresses this issue head on tomorrow, then I think it fades away. If he doesn’t, this is the kind of problem that could nag him for the rest of the campaign.