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Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race

Obama supporters

Supporters reach out to shake hands with Barack Obama in Bristow, Virginia. Mandel Ngan, Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mandel Ngan, Getty Images

Later this week on News & Notes, we'll take a closer look at the recent New York Times/CBS News poll on race and this election cycle.

The Times' analysis begins:

"Americans are sharply divided by race heading into the first election in which an African-American will be a major-party presidential nominee, with blacks and whites holding vastly different views of Senator Barack Obama, the state of race relations and how black Americans are treated by society."

Among the findings:

— Nearly 60 percent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites. Four in 10 blacks say that there has been no progress in recent years in eliminating racial discrimination; fewer than 2 in 10 whites say the same thing.

— Black voters were far more likely than whites to say that Mr. Obama cares about the needs and problems of people like them, and more likely to describe him as patriotic. Whites were more likely than blacks to say that Mr. Obama says what he thinks people want to hear, rather than what he truly believes.

— Among black voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, Mr. Obama draws support from 89 percent, compared with 2 percent for Mr. McCain. Among whites, Mr. Obama has 37 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for Mr. McCain.

And as political analyst James L. Taylor wrote for us in our Political Positions column:

"There is nothing novel about the responses in this poll as they relate to how different groups see race progress. Black Americans have been perennially skeptical of group to group relations, no matter how individual African Americans might excel in society."

What do you think of the poll and its findings? If you have a question you'd like us to consider on-air — or if you want to help us frame this conversation in a new way — leave us a comment.



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Race doesn't matter... period.

Race only matters if we want it to matter, if we believe as individuals that we personally have something to gain by making race matter. This also applies to the organizations and institutions we belong to and work for. In present case, if the media believes that they have something to gain by perpetuating the notion that race DOES in fact matter, then they will continue to do so and in the process strengthen the unfounded racist notion that our actions are inherently bound to our race rather than to our character.

Until the media has the courage to adopt the attitude that RACE DOES NOT MATTER, then they will continue to incite racial divisiveness in this country. Their attitude, that they are simply "reporting" or making an observation of something that in fact exists, is not a benign one. It makes them an active and willing participant in advancing the notion that racism can never be overcome.

They give legitimacy to racism when they promote the significance of race.

We are all Americans. The media should be polling Americans on topics that are truly meaningful to our shared lives.

Sent by Jon | 3:01 PM | 7-22-2008

Racism will not go away as long as there are concrete differences people can observe, i.e. consistently poor test scores, attitudes, crime statistics, predisposition to different diseases, etc. If racial differences did not exist, it would never have been a question. An obvious thing needs no promotion - it is only the wishful ideal that needs continual hype, energy, money and social programming.

Sent by Bob | 2:25 PM | 7-23-2008

If Obama were to win, would it give mainstream America license to say racism no longer exists? To what could blacks attribute gaps in achievement, if not institutionalized racism?

Sent by Travis Brown | 4:39 PM | 7-23-2008

Race is a reality, now with absolute confirmation through modern DNA technology. The concept of race is not a Anglo-European construct, as it is well documented around the world throughout written history and across many cultures. Accepting the notion of race and racial differences does not, in itself, constitute anti-social or uncivil actions.

Charges of racism and racially biased discrimination are almost exclusively placed upon the shoulders of Whites, especially by the media, yet prejudice and discrimination are hardly the limited to this racial group.

When will we start hearing a more honest approach to the topic of race on NPR and the media in general? More importantly, if Senator Obama loses or doesn't capture a high enough number of White voters to appease his supporters, will it be blamed upon White racism? Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that Barack Obama simply does not reflect the political views of many voters, White or otherwise?

Personally, I was supportive of Obama for the first several months after he announced his candidacy, viewing him as a refreshing change and great potential. However, since that time I have found that he is simply another politician through and through.

Sent by Chris | 5:01 PM | 7-24-2008

Let's not talk about race, even though Michele Obama is obsessed with it!

Rev. Wright is obsessed with it!

And Obama, himself, is obsessed with it - just read his papers from law school.

And if you don't think he'll be obsessed with identity politics for four years, then you're foolish.

This guy is all about Marxism light dressed up as "diversity." It will be Orwell's "Animal Farm", where all Americans are equal -just that protected classes are more equal than others!

Sent by Marc Bernstein | 7:31 PM | 7-24-2008

If Obama is more "palatable" to white voters because he's half white, does that make him more "palatable" to black voters because he's half black?

Sent by Chuck | 9:26 PM | 7-24-2008

Seriously: get over it. I will vote for Barak Obama because he is closest to my opinions. I would have, equally, voted for Hillary. But I don't kid myself that either of them is going to do 100% of what I would like them to. Get over it. He is black--that's wonderful but more importantly, I think he is better than the other guy. That's the bottom line, and that is the point his campaign has been trying to make all along, if only the media would stop talking about how black he is for a minute.

Sent by I'm Just Sayin'. | 10:24 PM | 7-24-2008

Race does matter. With all my qualifications as a legal assistant, I can still go into one of the finest lawfirms in the country and get paid 10 to 15 thousand dollars/per annum less than the blond haired less capable legal assistant and that is a fact. My grandson at age 12 will no longer be able to run down the streets of New York without the threat of being shot by a cop and at age 14, he will be at risk by NYPD because of racial profiling. I am a 52 year old black woman and a threat to no one, but when I walk the streets of midtown Manhattan, white people who walk in front of me behave as if I am about to rob them. If I or a member of my family walk into a store at Herald's Square, Kings Plaza or Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and so on, the store security follows us everywhere we go as if we are about to steal something. And that is just a drop in the hat on how much race matters in the year 2008. So the bottom line is that I could care less whether Barack Obama is elected for President.

Sent by Denise Sheppard | 11:28 AM | 7-25-2008

My feelings about all this talk about Race & Obama is this. We need to elect him first, than see after he's been in office for a while what effects his administration will have on the American pubic both for African Americans, Euro-Americans & others of color.

We just have been through 8 years of regressive politics when it comes to race & policies that effect the African American community.So it well take some time to really undue the effects of the last administration. Look at Clinton, it took nealy 2 terms for the people to really feel what ever good his policies was to have on our communties; you can agree or disagree about his policies, but the full effects took awhile to be felt, so what makes people think it will be any differnt for an Obama administration.

Personally I feel his arrival on the national polical scene at this time is an omen (sign) ! The man could just possibly be the Right man for these trying times, but we want know if we do not elect him, well we?

Sent by Robert H. | 1:59 PM | 7-25-2008

This is another astonishingly naive bit from the Times. Obama, seven weeks after winning a hard fought campaign for his party's nomination, is supposed to have had an impact on Americans' racial views -- which have been a matter of great pain for several hundred years? Was somebody born yesterday? Are attitudes a switch to be flipped? Yeah, naive article.

Sent by John Beck | 5:01 PM | 7-26-2008

Let's watch the undecided vote and see how it breaks from September to November.

Sent by Sam Shetty | 1:48 AM | 9-18-2008

Obama has 89% of the black vote and McCain has 2%. So who's running the racist campaign? If Obama was white he would have been laughed off the stage a long time ago.

Sent by robert johnson | 3:30 PM | 9-19-2008

I believe there is racism here. But, it's not from the McCain side.
I have seen the Obama campaign throwing racial lies at hispanics defaming McCain. I've seen him pronounce himself as a demi-god on the hill of Colorado.
All of his words are to say "I'm the one." In actuality, he's not the one. America is the one. The one country never to quit and always to stand out in the world.
If he is elected, do I envision an African state like Sierra Leone, Somilia, or Rowanda and thier great history of stable Governments? African countries Obama embraces so much.

He's never fought for it nor has he done anything to lead it.
I am a community organizer. I am accountable to nothing. I get people together and go to the local state/city agencies to work feasibility.
My volunteer work is very important but my money, name, or job are not on the line.
McCain's life was on the line in Vietnam.
Palin's job is always on the line as Gov.

I am going to vote for fortitude and the experience of tested people.

Obama won't win the Presidency because he's not white. He won't win because he's not qualified or entitled.

I DO NOT trust Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with character.

Sent by Robert Acer | 9:55 PM | 9-19-2008

I agree with Robert Johnson above. Nobody seems to notice the black vote when they are talking race. Actually if you wanted to argue this silly point less whites are racist than blacks by a substantial amount. What's wrong with the liberal media? Don't they realize how stupid they sound? Or are they trying to shame us into voting for B.O.?
Illini Mike

Sent by Mike Martin | 11:08 PM | 9-19-2008

It's platform people, platform. Cowboy from Texas, mom from alaska, old guy from a prison camp, corporate oil man, plain old white guy, career white lady politician, young skinny black man. These are the covers. I only care about what is in the book. I was undecided until I really heard what Obama had to say and when I heard every concern I have had referred to if not totally addressed I was sold. First time that has happened in 45 years. First time I have stood solidly behind anyone for President. I find myself surprised and hopeful.

Sent by Mom from Colorado | 11:19 PM | 9-19-2008

Blacks always see themselves as victims.
Just ask Jesse Jackson. Mr. race-bater himself. If you tell them enough they begin to believe it.
Illini Mike

Sent by Mike Martin | 11:20 PM | 9-19-2008

I don't think the Presidency of the United States is a good place for BHO to get his on the job training. I don't want to "give him a try." He should have to work for what he gets - not simply be elected because the blacks in the nation want a black President, regardless of how qualified he is.

Sent by Get real | 3:00 PM | 9-20-2008