Poll: Obama has a Race Problem, and McCain has an Age Problem

Sep 20 2008 Published by under Featured News

A new AP/Yahoo News poll is creating a buzz, by delving into the racial attitudes of white voters and suggesting that race could cost Obama six points on Election Day, but the poll also shows that John McCain has an age problem. Overall, Obama leads McCain 40%-35%.

The poll finds that 40% of those whites asked agreed with one negative adjective about black people. 20 percent of all whites said the word “violent” strongly applied, 22 percent agreed with “boastful,” 29 percent “complaining,” 13 percent “lazy” and 11 percent “irresponsible,” but what does this tell us about Barack Obama? The answer is nothing. What the poll does tell us is that old racial attitudes while diminishing remain strong.

Obama does have reason for concern, and that reason is that many voters still don’t think that he is experienced enough. The fourth most popular characteristic mentioned about Obama was inexperience.

Forty seven percent thought Obama is inexperienced. The good news for him is that the top three words used to describe him were intelligent (61%), popular (58%), and will bring about change (51%), down to earth (35%), ethical (31%), and a straight talker (31%).

McCain’s highest rated characteristics were reflective of his campaign’s themes. Sixty one percent said he was patriotic, followed by experienced (58%), a strong military leader (49%), and courageous (44%). The problem for McCain is his age. Thirty six percent of those asked said that McCain was past his prime. Twenty nine percent said he was stubborn, and a bigger problem for the McCain campaign is that the independent and change messages aren’t working. Only 15% of those surveyed said believe that McCain is independent, and 17% believed that McCain would bring about change.

I think this poll shows that each candidate has problems. Some people are unwilling to vote for a black man, and almost an equal amount of people are skeptical about McCain’s age. Overall in the poll Obama leads McCain 40%-35% nationally. I believe that this is the sort of polling that is dubious at best. We don’t know what states the white voters who have a problem with black people are in? These voters could be scattered throughout the country, or could they could be located in several states.

My hunch is that the voters that the stronger racial reaction are in red states. I have serious doubts that race will cost Obama a blue state. The people who demonstrated the strongest racial attitudes are probably those who are located in states that would go for McCain anyway. I firmly believe that Obama will the first president elected without a majority of national white voter support.

These elections are decided at the state, so what is important to me than some vague national poll are the attitudes of white voters in states like Ohio and Virginia. This, and not a national attitude, will likely determine the outcome of the election.

See the full poll results here

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