Obama's Candidacy Underscores Crosscurrents of Race and Politics

HISPANICS – Another key group in the racial mix, Hispanics accounted for fewer voters than blacks in 2004 – 8 percent, well under their share of the adult population. One reason is the number who are ineligible to vote given their lack of citizenship.

In 2004 Bush made inroads among Hispanics, usually a Democratic group, and this year they favored Hillary Clinton over Obama by nearly a 2-1 margin in the primaries; that makes them a group to watch. On average in the last two ABC/Post polls, however, Obama's been supported by 71 percent of Hispanics, roughly the share Clinton won in 1996, the best for a Democrat since Carter's 76 percent in 1976.

WHITES/MORE VIEWS – It's not just in vote preferences that racial sensitivity levels impact whites' views on the election. Among low-racial sensitivity whites just 48 percent see Obama favorably overall; that rises to 56 percent in the middle group and 67 percent among highly racially sensitive whites. And just 33 percent in the low-sensitivity group think Obama has the right kind of experience to be president, compared with 41 percent in the middle and 60 percent of high-sensitivity whites.

Thirty-one percent in the low-racial sensitivity group think Obama would do "too much" as president in terms of representing the interests of African-Americans; that drops to 16 percent in the middle group and 11 percent in the high-sensitivity group. Just 29 percent in the low-sensitivity group see Obama's candidacy as helping race relations; that grows to 36 percent in the middle group and 54 percent of more highly racially sensitive whites. And 43 percent in the low-sensitivity group say the race of the candidate has any importance in their vote choice; that falls to about three in 10 in the middle- and high-sensitivity groups.

On other measures it's whites with the highest levels of racial sensitivity who stand out. Only 38 percent in this group see Obama as a "risky" choice, compared with 53 percent in the middle group and 60 percent of less racially sensitive whites. Those with higher levels of racial sensitivity also are much more likely to be enthusiastic about Obama's candidacy overall.

All told, just 21 percent of whites say the race of the candidate is very or somewhat important in their vote – and Obama's support is essentially the same among those who say race matters and those who say not. The index of racial sensitivity digs deeper into these views, but still suggests that, given the differences between more and less racially sensitive whites, Obama's race shows little if any net effect on vote choices overall.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone June 12-15, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,125 adults, including an oversample of African Americans (weighted to their correct share of the national population), for a total of 201 black respondents. The results from the full survey have a 3-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA.

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