Blacks' Political Engagement Spikes, Though Racial Divisions Remain Deep

And even with their enthusiasm for Obama, blacks by a wide margin, 60-23 percent, say it's more important for African-Americans to build economic rather than political power.

Another key finding, perhaps surprising given personal experience, is that blacks do not broadly blame racism as the chief barrier African-Americans face in improving their situation.

While 37 percent say racism is the more important factor, slightly more, 44 percent, say it's lack of initiative among blacks themselves. (Half of Hispanics, and 56 percent of whites, share that view.)

Life experience again is a factor: Blacks who've often experienced discrimination are 20 points more apt than those who haven't experienced it at all to call racism the main barrier facing blacks.

Barack Obama's Historic Candidacy Injects Race into Presidential Campaign

Changes in political engagement among blacks are remarkable: Eighty-four percent report being registered to vote, up from 78 percent in the 2004 ABC News/Washington Post pre-election tracking poll, and likewise more than in ABC pre-election polls dating to 1984. (Fewer Hispanics, 69 percent, report being registered.)

Fifty-six percent of blacks also say they're following the election very closely, compared with 48 percent of whites and 33 percent of Hispanics; that's the highest level of engagement among blacks since 1992 – 9 points higher than in pre-election 2004, 21 points higher than in 2000 and 24 points higher than in 1996.

Nearly a third of blacks, 31 percent, say they've donated money to a political campaign, compared with 21 percent of whites and 16 percent of Hispanics.

Fourteen percent of blacks say they've worked for a political party or candidate in the past year, twice the rate among whites and Hispanics. And, locally, blacks are more apt than whites and Hispanics, by 9 and 12 points, to report having attended a town or school meeting.

Blacks broadly reject the suggestion that Obama has avoided issues of special concern to African-Americans in order to sharpen his appeal to whites. At the same time, race is a vast differentiator: Among registered voters, 92 percent of blacks support Obama over John McCain, as do 57 percent of Hispanics but just 36 percent of whites.

Still, support among whites for McCain over Obama, 56-36 percent, can't easily be seen as based on the candidates' races, since whites divided by a similar 58-41 percent for George W. Bush over John Kerry, and by as wide or wider margins for George H.W. Bush in 1988 and for Ronald Reagan in both of his elections.

Similarly, Obama's 92 percent support from blacks is much like Kerry's 88 percent and Al Gore's 90 percent; blacks are the single most reliable Democratic voting group.

Nonetheless, Obama's candidacy clearly has struck a chord with blacks.

Fifty-one percent say his nomination makes them more proud to be Americans – down from its peak, 64 percent, during his nominating convention, but still a substantial number.

Notably, there are some whites who are particularly in tune with African-American concerns, and more apt than their counterparts to support Obama.

Nearly a third of whites, 32 percent, say blacks have too little influence over government policies; they support Obama by 58-39 percent. Whites who instead say blacks have the right amount of influence, or the few who say they have too much, back McCain by 66-27 percent.

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