05/07/2007 04:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Asking About Obama's Race

The 2,500-word examination
of Barack Obama and race in today's Washington
touches briefly on the issue of whether polling, "once" considered "wildly
unreliable" in races involving black and white candidates might be more
trustworthy than in past elections. It quotes Scott Keeter of the Pew Research
Center, who co-authored a
on the issue back in February.

But what caught my eye is a bit of overlooked survey data
relevant to the larger story. Consider the tongue-in-cheek reaction to the Post
story this morning from Time's Ana
Marie Cox:

Barack Obama is black.
No, seriously, he

Washington Post is ALL OVER this story.

But believe it or not, not all Americans know that Obama is
black. Here is the result released just last Friday from a national sample of
adults surveyed by Quinnipiac University (Q33):

What race do you consider Barack

2% White

45% Black

0% Asian

7% Mixed/other

9% Mixed Black and White

37% Don't know

The results to this question show virtually no variation by
party. Among Democrats, 48% consider Obama black, 7% mixed/other, 7% mixed black
and white.

One thing unclear as of this writing: Did interviewers read
the two "mixed" categories to respondents or did respondents volunteer those
answers? I will check on that, but if "mixed" was not presented as an option,
some confusion is to be expected given Obama's famously "biracial and
multinational background" (to quote the Post article). [UPDATE: Doug Schwartz at Quinnipiac emails that this questions was entirely open-ended and did not prompt respondents with any categories].

Meanwhile, there is a very intriguing cross-tabulation I
would like to see: How much different are the results to the primary horserace question
and the Obama favorable rating among the 63% of Democrats that answered the
question correctly as compared to the 37% that did not. The Democratic sample
is relatively small (n=499) but still large enough for such a comparison. Unfortunately,
the survey has nowhere near enough interviews to allow the really interesting test: How African-American Democrats answered this question.