Obama & Clinton Among African-Americans

01/23/2007 03:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An update on my post
on the surprising strength of Hillary Clinton against Barack
Obama - at least for the now -- among African-American Democrats: The CBS News poll
released last night, which included an "over-sample" of black voters, produced similar
results as those I cited yesterday from the ABC/Washington Post poll.

Although the polls ask different questions, they both show Hillary
Clinton leading Obama by nearly two-to-one among African American Democrats:


One critical question to ask before interpreting these
results is, how well do African Americans know Barack Obama? The CBS favorable rating question differs
from other pollsters (in a good way) in offering an explicitly "unfamiliar"
option: "Is your opinion of Barack Obama
favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven't you heard enough about Barack
Obama yet to have an opinion?
(emphasis added)"

While the CBS analysis does not break out their favorable
ratings by race, it does provide results for all Democratic primary
voters. While Obama is far from unknown,
many Democrats (40%) still "haven't heard enough" yet to rate him (40%). All
but 3% know Clinton
well enough to rate her.


As per Mickey Kaus's item today,
speculation will no doubt center on whether African Americans harbor doubts
about Obama. Similar speculation
preceded his 2004 primary contest, when Obama won virtually all of black vote
among Illinois Democrats. The more
likely explanation for the current standings is a combination of Democrats strong loyalty to the Clintons among African
Americans (as noted by Kaus) and relative unfamiliarity with Obama among
ordinary voters. Yes, he has been
covered extensively and is well known to political junkies. But never underestimate how remote most
political coverage is to everyone else.

Having polled for one of Obama's primary opponents in 2004, I can tell you that whatever doubts Illnois African-Americans may have had about Obama prior to the 2004 primary race, they faded fast as he began to run
television advertising, move in the polls and receive routine coverage on media
outlets (read local TV news) that reached real voters. The same could happen nationally should he
score an early victory in Iowa or New Hampshire. Of course, his opponents in the Illinois primary were a
far cry from Hilary Clinton in terms of their appeal to black voters. So, as with most of these sorts of
interesting questions, we will have to wait for the real votes to be cast to
know for certain.

And we have a long,
long way to go before that happens.