Newspapers really ought to use their heads before just publishing problematic pieces like the AP’s latest poll on bigots and Barack.
“The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 – about 2.5 percentage points,” AP reports.
I’m not sure the poll suggests that at all.
Over at The New Republic, Nate Silver outlines several of the poll’s obvious holes – without even mentioning that the article itself states that “Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger.”
The motive behind the poll is equally suspect – though a favorite meme of the summer: trying to determine why Obama doesn’t have a larger lead. The assumption every election season that the Democrat is the obvious choice belies an understanding of the American voter. (Even those who think Al Gore really won in 2000 blame him for not winning overwhelmingly as he “should” have; it was often observed by the punditry that if the Democrats couldn’t win in 2004, they couldn’t ever win.)
The Republicans nominated the one candidate in their field who could appeal to independents and disaffected Democrats and make the race competitive. In turn, that nominee selected a widely mocked vice presidential nominee who nonetheless succeeded in saving the GOP ticket. On the other hand, the Democrats nominated a candidate with considerable talents but who is fresh out of the Illinois Senate. Who says Obama should be running away with this? Obama only managed to persuade half of his own party’s primary voters that he was the right person for the job – and backed into the nomination on a losing streak.
That’s not to criticize Obama, it’s to criticize the notion that he should be winning easily. In that way, in fact, it’s a way of saying he deserves a break from that kind of carping.
And voters deserve a more sophisticated examination of race – which is undoubtedly a factor, but not as simply as many might believe.