General Question

RandomMrdan's avatar

Why do polls show that the political race between McCain and Obama are that close?

Asked by RandomMrdan (7433points) August 26th, 2008

I’m really confused by all of this…from what I hear is, McCain supports majority of what Bush does and what his plans are. With that said, Bush has a very low approval rating. How can someone support one person, but in turn give the person who he agrees with a bad approval rating?

What is going on with all of this? It seems to make no sense as to why it would appear this close. Also, I’m confused on the matter of how I’m hearing about 27% of Clinton’s supporters are now supporting McCain, which also doesn’t make much sense to me either. I know that Clinton and Obama didn’t see eye to eye on every matter at hand, but I’m sure Obama is much closer to her overall plan than McCain’s.

Can anyone help shed some light on these matters? I’ve really been a bit confused and bewildered as of lately about it all. It seems that the media may have twists on how they present all of this, and they aren’t letting in all the details on how they’re getting these numbers, I don’t know.

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55 Answers

crunchaweezy's avatar

It’s McCain’s ads, have you seen them? All they do is trash talk Obama, what do you expect from the ones that believe whatever TV tells them.

jlm11f's avatar

One reason people still support McCain is because they consider him the lesser of two evils. There are Americans out there unfortunately that just refuse to vote for a Black man. Then you have the idiots who are planning on voting for McCain ONLY because of one factor…which is the abortion factor. By now, most people republican or democrat want to be out of the war. But there are still people who would vote for McCain for controversial topics such as abortion, gay marriage etc. So these single issue voters refuse to see the big picture and thus the race is still close.

I’ll come back to this Q later to answer the other Qs you asked time for food

Poser's avatar

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone ever supported Hillary.

But that’s beside the point. Remember that a large portion of this country, despite what a lot of the media would have you believe, is still very conservative. Obama is much more liberal than many Americans are comfortable with. While McCain may espouse many of Bush’s policies, his Conservatism is more acceptable to many that Obama’s liberalism.

…I’m just kidding. It’s because he’s black. And a “moslem.”

robmandu's avatar

Lotsa charts

About the Battleground Poll Results.

robmandu's avatar

From the Battleground Poll:


When thinking about politics and government, do you consider yourself to be…

Very conservative….................................................20%
Somewhat conservative…........................................40%
MODERATE (DNR)................................................2%
Somewhat liberal…..................................................27%
Very liberal….............................................................9%
UNSURE/REFUSED (DNR) ...................................3%

blastfamy's avatar

This ‘Hillary Supporters for McCain’ is a direct result of the bitter primary battle between Obama and Clinton. Essentially both sides of supporters decided that they would rather anybody be in office than their horse’s opponent. When Hillary lost, the inevitable happened: people who supported Hillary saw Obama as unfit to lead the US (a lot of which had to do with the mud-slinging done in the primaries), so they are now in favor of McCain.

As stated above, the US is not entirely ,soullessly, democrat. There are the people who do not follow party lines of any kind (like myself). There are also the soulless republicans who would like to see a republican in office no matter who is running. The point is, the entire US population is not as left-oriented as commercially stated.

Finally, as I have said in other places, Bush Bashing is a popular hobby. It gets media attention; and in the words of John Stewart, “It’s about the only way to get books on the shelves these days!” The fact in the matter is that conservative ideals are not inherently unpopular. They are only jeered out of public interest when they come from the mouth of one George W. Bush. McCain following Republican Party lines does not mean that those policies are inherently invalid: they only seem to be incredulous when coming from the mouth of the current President.

augustlan's avatar

Basically, people are stupid, and we stupidly follow our chosen party, to the detriment of our nation.

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a researcher out there, I believe, who studies how the looks of candidates affect the voters’ decisions. I suspect that people like the way McCain looks better. Now that may be mistrust of a black face, or it could be that McCain looks experienced, and Obama does not, or it could be that McCain looks tough, and Obama looks callow. I don’t know. Though it is interesting how these looks issues dovetail with the criticisms or comparisons of the two.

Unfortunately, Obama can’t do much about his looks.

I wish people made decisions without looking at candidates. Just looking at their positions on paper, and looking at detailed analyses of the impact of these policies. On that basis, I think most people would find their interests will be served better by Obama. But, we are a nation of on-the-go people, who really aren’t interested in thinking, if they don’t have to, and so, they seem to be happy with who they elected, even if they don’t like him now, and they’ll vote for him again.

jholler's avatar

I don’t have a party, I follow my gut. My gut leans more towards a hero with over 3 decades of leadership than a junior first term senator with no military experience. I am in the military, I’d like my new boss to have some idea what he’s doing.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jholler I am also in the military, and I know my leader doesn’t need military experience to make a good boss. A leader can have many people to help him make decisions on military actions. Just like bush isn’t the one over there making decisions on how to command the troops, he has generals who do that because it is their job. And people to give intel to help make decisions, and input.

I feel that economic issues are a bit more pressing than the war in the middle east. And as McCain has said before, he has plenty of foreign policy, but lacks economic experience. And right now we need economic stability.

I also like what Obama has planned for universal healthcare.

But neither your opinion, or mine have much to do with my question.

@daloon yeah I agree, it’d be much better in many ways if we could vote solely based on the candidates position on certain policies and so on. And I do know that Obama’s race does effect a lot of people’s opinion of him as well. I know some people who have said “well McCain obviously is the better choice, I mean come on, at least he is white.” There are just a sheer amount of ignorant people like that who will vote based on race I’m sure.

blastfamy's avatar

I think it would be great if each candidate advertised the links to get to their voting records. This way, people would have an understanding of where each candidate truly stood: not where they tell people in their TV spots.

Bri_L's avatar

@ blastfamy – here is a pretty cool site for checking. Not as efficient as your suggestion.

winblowzxp's avatar

I think that people are starting to realize that they know who Obama is, but they really don’t know who he is.

I don’t like universal healthcare one bit. That means taxes are going to go up. I don’t trust health insurance companies as far as I can throw, but I trust Government even less than that. I don’t need buearocracy getting in the way on my road to recovery from illness.

Lightlyseared's avatar

The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

aidje's avatar

Cite your quotes. Or at least put them in quotation marks. :-)

jholler's avatar

hitchhiker’s guide?

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jholler hahaha actually it sounds like that would have been quoted from that movie (or book). good call.

dalepetrie's avatar

To get back to the question asked about why the polls are so close, there are a number of reasons. One is that the polls now are reflecting a period where Obama was on vacation, or just coming off vacation, where McCain was merciliessly sending out negative ad after negative ad. It’s unfortunate that people who would not win elections if they stood on their own records and just ran a completely positive campaign so often win in this country because they can convince more people (who don’t pay enough attention) that their opponent is somehow scary, not ready for the job, dangerous, bad, whatever. When one candidate has the ability to spread that message while the other isn’t countering it, the one who’s being attacked will see his #‘s dip.

But first, you have to look at the makeup of the electorate to really get a big picture. Arianna Huffington actually posed this question in her latest book, she called it the 28/48 disconnect, in that 28% of the people seem to think Bush is doing a great job, yet 48% of people support McCain. She posits the theory that people really remember the Maverick John McCain, the guy who ran in 2000 who was known for crossing party lines. So, McCain has been popular with so-called independents who like a little of what each side has to say, but he’s been somewhat unpopular with the Republican base which values loyalty above all and expects their candidates to be lock step with the conservative agenda. So, what McCain has had to do on one hand is cozy up to the Bush policies that are the most important to the base (like making his tax cuts permanent, staying in Iraq, working to repeal Roe v. Wade), while really not focusing on his record so the independents don’t really realize that on every issue of importance, he’s shifted his position to be lock step with the unpopular base.

Yet, when you say the base is unpopular, it is still 28% of the voting public. If you look at the other side of the equation, there are about 28% of Democrats who would not abandon the Democratic party no matter how failed their policies might be, that leaves nearly 45% of the voting public which are the so-called independents. Well, research has shown that realisically, 1/3 of the “independents” are really independent Republican leaners and 1/3 are independent Democrat leaners, and the other 1/3 are truly independent. So, you end up with basically 43% who are going to vote for the Republican no matter what, and 43% who are going to vote for the Democrat no matter what, and that leaves about 14% in the middle who really decide the elections.

Now, realize that of all the people who actually CAN vote, in the election with the highest turnout (2004), only 60% actually excercized that right, so realistically, you are only talking about having to convince 60% of 14% of the public to vote for you, or about 8%. But really, you only have to convince one more than half of that number, so when you think about it, you need to make the more persuasive argument to just over half of about 8 percent of the population.

So, Obama makes a compelling enough case that he has been at times up by 3 or 4 points (he has 5 to 6 out of 8 of those people), but McCain just gets one or two out of 8 of those people to have second thoughts about Obama, and BAM, dead heat.

But take heart, there’s another factor that is going largely ignored, and it makes me supremely confident that Obama will win (which I’ll get to later). I mean, first off, of course, the conventions haven’t happened yet, we haven’t had debates yet, and the Republicans have turned this into an up or down on Obama…McCain’s flip flopping, cozying up to the right wing and abandonment of his long held principles haven’t even been exposed to the light of day for most voters (yet). Most voters don’t yet have wind of a lot of the things McCain will do that follow pretty close to the Bush model, and it’s the job of the Democrats and the Obama campaign to make that happen…I’m confident they will be effective at pushing this message.

But the ace in the hole I alluded to is voter turnout. One of the things that people always talk about is voter turnout, particularly the “youth” vote, and it always seems that no matter how confident the dems are that they will bring out the youth vote, the younger generation always tends to disappoint. But I think this year will be different, and the reason why I think this is voter registration, and the sheer number of people who voted in the primaries and caucuses (and the percentage of them that were younger), along with the record percentage of younger delegates to the convention this year. It seems reasonable to assume that a college kid who drags himself out in the winter to something as unsexy as the primary is going to make it to the main event.

And voter registration alone points to one severe deficit in the polls. First of all, pollsters try to make an accurate judgement about who is going to turn out, they call this the “likely voter”. So, what they do is they start by saying in such and such a state, in the last election, 40% were Democrats and 60% were Republicans, so they are going to try to build a sample of respondents matching the voter rolls. They also use the names of the people who actually came out and voted to poll from, thinking that if you voted before, it means you are likely to vote again. Now, this helps get an accurate sample to a degree, but it ignores a number of things. Since the last election, demographics would have shifted, maybe Republicans have made a mass exodus and Democrats have filled the void. It also ignores what’s happening on the ground in real time. If Obama’s people are getting 10 new Democrats to register to vote for every Republican the McCain camp is registering, that means they are using an outdated model…maybe that state is now 50/50, and they don’t pick up well on it. They try, but the nature of the beast is that they don’t have real time information like this.

So, in a year when Obama is doing an extraordinary job of bringing new people into the process, it’s a big advantage for him that doesn’t show up in the polls. And people wonder if all these folks are really going to show up. Well, in every election we’ve had, we’ve had essentially 2 rich old white men, neither of whom would impact anyone’s day to day lives. Now, we have a candidate who has come by his wealth recently, who is young and not white, who believes in a bottom up economic theory to replace our trickle down economics. He is the first person to run for the office who really champions the populist issues that most Presidential candidates have avoided with a 10 foot pole. So, if you’re a young person interested in social and economic justice, Obama is going to inspire you…that’s why he has this rockstar persona. And so many of those people aren’t being counted. If you are dirt poor, working 3 jobs, and it would cost you 2 hours of work plus bus fare both ways to vote for President, in no other year would a candidate have said anything which could really make you believe they’d make your life better, now you’ve got a candidate who speaks for you.

The whole point of negative advertising is to turn off that 40% that doesn’t turn out, to keep them at home by making them think that there really is no difference…both guys are sleazy, interested in little more than their own power, and if you listen to the ads, either one is dangerous in his own way. The message Obama can get across to a number of these people (and is getting across based on how many new people are being registered) is that who is President really DOES matter. He has the best possible contrast between himself and Bush in fact, he can point to how much worse off people are under Bush and offer them an alternative that seems more real than previous years when it was 2 boring old rich white men who took contrary positions on a few hot button issues but in all practicality operated on about the same level.

So, pollsters are missing a huge number of people who are going to come out and vote for Obama, but who aren’t identified, and the problem is also compounded by the cell phone issue. Younger people are FAR more likely to not even own a land line these days, relying solely on their cell phones. Well, pollsters can’t call cell phones. Ergo, they are undersampling the youth vote. All in all, what this points to is that no matter what the number say, I fully expect that come election day, Obama will do much better than he is polling at the time, and the size of his victory will come as a surprise. So, don’t worry, be happy, and vote Obama.

blastfamy's avatar

By the way (to the asker), was this question phrased so as to suggest that there is no reason why – holy shit! dalepetrie’s post just came in – the poll numbers shouldn’t be close? As if something is wrong/skewed by this statistic?

RandomMrdan's avatar

@blastfamy assuming that the numbers were accurate…the Bush approval rating being low, and yet people backing McCain I found to be strange. I just found it hard to believe that people who gave someone a low approval rating could support someone who is supportive of the person they gave a low approval rating for.

Maybe the numbers have been skewed? I guess we just have to believe the numbers we’re given. Maybe they’re pulling these statistics from particular sources to make it appear closer? I really don’t know.

RandomMrdan's avatar

And yeah, that was a huge response Dale, I have to give you Lurve just for giving us all that much information =)

Bri_L's avatar

@ dale – thanks for the info that was very helpful.

blastfamy's avatar

Ahh, thanks for clarifying – I just think that many people think Bush is an idiot (I’m not here to argue for or against that). The fact that McCain and Bush back the same policies does not mean that McCain has to be painted with the same bad ju-ju brush.

It’s Bush who the people don’t really support, the policies are what nobody hears about over the din of the Bush bashing.

dalepetrie's avatar

I really think to condense it greatly, whereas you, RanomMrdan know that McCain is supportive of Bush, McCain has made a concerted effort to play up his “maverick” image of “working across party lines”. That used to be true, but the unwashed masses just don’t yet realize that hey, he’s selling us the same snake oil Bush was…they think he’s an independent thinker who will be more of a moderate than his current campaign suggests. This is why all the focus on Obama…not only can he make Obama look bad by hurling mischaracterizations of Obama’s positions, but then it deflects interest in him, people just assume he’s who they think he is, and it becomes all about Obama, and McCain is allowed to coast. Once McCain has to suffer some attacks for his shifting positions and cozy relationship to Bush, enough people will wake up to the realities.

Judi's avatar

There were people supporting Clinton in the primary (at the request of some conservative pundants) just because they wanted to run against her in the fall. They knew that her being on the ticket would energize the conservative base against her. They may be a big part of the 27%.

Judi's avatar

Did anyone else notice that if McCain wants to avoid a question he just digs into his bag of 10 or so prepared stories, tells it in a heartfelt manner and everyone claps without ever getting the answer to the question?

dalepetrie's avatar


That’s what’s known as Operation Chaos…Rush Limbaugh’s attempt to throw confusion into the works. So, they ask people “did you vote for Clinton in the primaries”, knowing full well that as much as 5 to 10 percent of her support came from Republicans who had no intention of voting for a Democrat, so yes, they’re going to vote for McCain now, you’re not going to get those people back because you never really had them.

What’s really intersting to me is that the few die hard Hillary or Bust supporters there are (with the exception of the media whores like Will Bower), aren’t going to vote for McCain, they’re going to not vote or vote for Nader. One would think Nader in the race would actually help McCain, but it actually hurts him because it gives the disaffected Hillary voters somewhere to go other than to the Republican to express their displeasure.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m curious as to why you think Republicans voted for Hillary in the primaries. I would have thought they would vote for Obama, since most people expected her to be the better candidate. She’s more middle of the road, which is an advantage to the party. The Republicans, for whatever reason, managed to elect the candidate who can take up the most of the center, and that’s an advantage for them. If Democrats had elected Hillary, my suspicion is that the Dems would claim the center territory, and this wouldn’t even look like a close race.

robmandu's avatar

The motivation behind Operation Chaos was to foment strife amongst the lead democratic candidates. If Hillary had been ahead in the polls, Rush Limbaugh would’ve instructed Chaos participants to vote Obama.

The idea being that as long as there was a high profile fight for the candidacy, then Hillary and Obama would do all the mudslinging on their own.

And it worked to a degree. For example, Hillary’s 3am ad about Obama having little statesmanship experience is now included in John McCain’s own version of the same ad. And it’s in Hillary’s voice.

dalepetrie's avatar

Yes, exactly. There was much gesturing and patting themselves on the back about how they were going to choke back the vomit and go in and vote for Hillary to prolong the nomination process (once it was clear to everyone but Hillary that she’d lost), so that McCain would have that period between February and June to build up his record (and tear down Obama’s) while Obama was engaged in fighting off Hillary. It was one of the reasons that so many Obama supporters were so Angry with Hillary because the math didn’t lie, but she kept hanging onto hope and tearing Obama down with things they knew would come back at Obama in the general election (case in point, exactly what McCain and Guiliani are doing now by talking about the time Hillary said that McCain had years of experience and Obama had a speech he gave in 2002). It’s not something I think, it’s something that if you listened to any right wing talk radio, you’d know was actively going on…they were BRAGGING about it.

robmandu's avatar

Funny thing is, I remember hearing a lot of dems bragging about voting in the republican primaries (they’re pretty much wide open, not party limited) for McCain. Turnabout’s fair play, nu?

winblowzxp's avatar

@robmandu, I’d say so. As far as answering the question, and that approval numbers were brought into play, Congress has an approval rating at under 10%, that means that Obama and McCain both have low approval numbers, ergo they’re about the same in polls.

aidje's avatar

Yes, it was from HHGTTG. The book. I don’t claim to know whether it was in the movie.

allengreen's avatar

The polls show it to be a close race so that when the RNC steals the election there will be a narrative about , “it was soo close race” “it could have gone either way” kind of BS.
This election will go to McCain by theft——I’ll bet “my boys”.

dalepetrie's avatar


normally I’d agree, but Obama’s poll numbers are artificially low because they don’t account for the huge spike in turnout/new voter registrations, so though they may try, they generally can steal it if it’s within 1 or 2 points. Even if the polls say it’s within one or two points, in reality it will be 5 or 6 points and the efforts (if any) will fail.

allengreen's avatar

dale—I hope your are right

sands's avatar

Because Obama doesn’t fit the “traditional” mold of a US president. There are many people who just can’t get past that-no matter how clear it is that Mc Cain-Palin are the gruesome twosome.

allengreen's avatar

That is a nice way of saying we are a racist nation, and I agree.

jholler's avatar

why are we racist? The only black influence in Obama’s life left when he was what, 2? He’s white.

dalepetrie's avatar


which just goes to prove the prejudice and racism in our country…they judge him by the color of his skin, not the content of his character.

robmandu's avatar

Who exactly is they?

You mean KKK-types? Yah, I agree. But that’s not any kind of a significant population, nor is it a group that gets any mainstream credence. So why keep bringing it up?

Or do you mean anyone who’d rather not vote for Obama? Then I heartily disagree. Obama isn’t just liberal, he’s a leftist… even people here on Fluther who call themselves socialists resonate strongly with his message. When it comes to political ideology, that’s a pretty significant differentiation factor that folks can can disagree with in good conscience.

Put another way, I don’t hear a lot of talk that anyone who prefers not to have Sarah Palin in office is a woman-hating, sexist pig. Nor do I expect that to be the default reason pointed to.

dalepetrie's avatar

“they” meaning simply the people who do still harbor racist feelings, and they are NOT all KKK types. Racism is not as blatant as it used to be, when it rears its head it takes many forms. I guarantee you there are a lot of white people who still hurl racial epithets around the house, and there are plenty more who think they would be OK with a black President, but really are not when it gets right down to it. I don’t think being outwardly racist is mainstream, but I think there’s still a fair amount of racism just under the surface in mainstream society. If you don’t agree, you haven’t spent much time in small towns or in the deep south.

No, I don’t believe that everyone who prefers McCain to Obama is a racist, far from it…I believe most McCain voters will find Obama to be too far left as you do. I tend to think most Republicans wouldn’t like Obama’s policies…though Obama is not completely “leftist” as you say, he does take some right leaning positions….being pro death penalty for violent crimes for example.

Conversely, I think very few people who aren’t going to vote for McCain feel that way because they’re sexist…from my point of view there are about 3 trillion reasons I’d be scared shitless to have Palin anywhere NEAR the White House and not a single one of them has anything to do with what’s between her legs, it’s what’s between her ears that scares the hell out of me.

My point is, anyone who simply can not stomach Obama as President because of the color of his skin (and I have heard numerous people make this very statement…I know the sentiment still exists in some corners of white America) is judging a book by it’s cover. Now some of them might not like his politics either, that’s true, but some wouldn’t even give him the chance, and to ignore that this factor exists in America is to wear blinders, the same as anyone who assumes you’d have to be racist NOT to vote for him.

Poser's avatar

@dale—You make a very subtle, yet very incorrect suggestion in your last answer. “I guarantee you there are a lot of white people who still hurl racial epithets…” I’m not going to argue your points on Obama, I think that you’re probably right in saying that a lot of people don’t give him a chance because he’s black. But white people aren’t the only ones who are racist. In fact, the only people I know personally who’ve said they wouldn’t vote for Obama because he’s black, are minorities themselves. If we are to eliminate racism, we’ve got to understand that it’s not strictly white people who harbor racist ideas.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Poser – I never meant to suggest that ONLY white people are racist, I know that’s not the case. I don’t think my statement that “I guarantee you there are a lot of white people who still hurl racial epithets…” is at all inaccurate….I could hold out examples, I’ve seen it and heard it first person. That’s not to say that there aren’t other racial groups that aren’t prejudiced against blacks (or other racial groups), or that there aren’t also blacks who are prejudiced against whites (or other racial groups). Racism is a pox that works in every direction. BUT, I was responding to robmandu who seemed to be suggesting that white on black racism doesn’t exist outside the KKK, and that all the talk about racism is overblown.

I disagree…I think it does exist enough that it should be discussed. BUT, I don’t think it will ultimately impact this election, because I think other factors (including, but not limited to, a sort of reverse racism) will in the end offset the minimal, yet all too real racism that still exist. I think it is indeed something that exist far more than we see on the surface, but I don’t think it’s something that is systemic in the way it was say 40 years ago.

Now, you say I suggested that I thought racism was solely a white to black issue, and I take serious umbrage with that statement, you could not be further from incorrect in accusing me of making such an ignorant, short sighted statement, and I am deeply offended that you would read that into my statement. Clearly, if you will follow the context of this discussion, we’re talking about a society in which whites make up the largest demographic group, and whether or not racism will inhibit the election of a “black” candidate (and let’s not parse words about half-black, or even more ridiculous “halfrican American”, as Obama has self identified as “black”). I was framing my comments within the parameters of the discussion at hand, and attempts to paint me as ill informed on the depths of racism among various demographic groups are, I assure you, completely misguided.

robmandu's avatar

< < didn’t say that “racism doesn’t exist outside the KKK”… merely used that one recognizable reference as a handy example.

dalepetrie's avatar

No, but you inquired if I meant KKK types, and that was not who I was referring to. I think mainstream racism is far more prevalent than you’re recognizing…it’s just not as easy to see and takes place more in private (often times only in the minds of those practicing it).

robmandu's avatar

@dalpetrie, and I think that’s an easy charge to make, since no evidence is required, or even possible (“only in the minds of those practicing it.”)

I think it oversimplifies the debate. If you’re (generic you) unable to understand a person’s rationale, then it’s easy to chalk it up to “closet” racism.

dalepetrie's avatar

But as I’ve said, I’ve encountered it many times. My wife’s stepmom is a great example of a white person who would never vote for a black person. She is constantly forwarding unsubstantiated racist emails about Obama to my wife, even though she knows we’re Obama supporters. She’s the type of person who doesn’t say “nigger” in public, but has no problem saying it umpteen times an hour in her own home. That is about the least subtle form you see these days, but you know, if you met her at the grocery store, you wouldn’t know she’s a racist.

I’m telling you, she’s not alone. I’ve talked to many people who will say one thing when there are only whites around and completely another when they’re in public. You’re putting on blinders if you doubt this. Might be an easy charge to make, but it’s true.

But if you want proof of undeniable, subtle racism that exists underneath the surface, I’ll give you some examples that I’ve seen just in the past few weeks.

I listen to NPR quite a bit, and they recently did a story about whether or not racial attitudes impact peoples’ voting habits. They talked to 13 voters from York, Pennsylvania (a town I’ve personally visited, and I was not at all surprised to find this). They took 6 non-whites and 7 whites and had them discuss racial issues and politics. Going into the interview, not a single one of the people said that race had ANYTHING to do with their voting decision, and after they all admitted that it did play some role. After the discussion, when it was determined that all 6 non whites were for Obama and the whites were split, after some of the things they said (one of the white women admitted that she couldn’t quite trust Obama because his dad had been a Muslim and maybe he had once been a Muslim and wasn’t being honest about it, and once a Muslim, always a Muslim) that’s prejudiced against a religion, not a race, but it seemed clear that she had an easier time believing McCain when he said things that were questionable. There ARE deeply held trust issues even among those who think they’re enlightened…racism hasn’t just gone away because we don’t see white people calling black people niggers to their face anymore, that’s patently naiive.

Another thing I also heard on NPR was a blip where a white woman basically as much as admitted she liked Obama but couldn’t bring herself to vote for him because he’s black.

My brother in law was a Hillary supporter, because he didn’t think “America” was ready for a black President…he claimed he was, but he said things that belied thinly veiled racist attitudes, things like, “he strikes me as kind of…shady.”

I grew up in a small town in Northern Minnesota where racism was simply a fact of life. We had no black people in the town I grew up in. The neighboring town had very few. As recently as the mid 90s when the black population started to grow, a local business owner refused service to a couple of black patrons.

Friends of ours who moved to Georgia for a few years (starting in about ‘98) reported to us that they had seen “Whites Only” clubs near their home.

I recently read in a memoir about someone who in North Carolina not that recently, shocked the author by asking him to hand her the “nigger” when she meant the remote control.

I’m sorry if it doesn’t meet the PC luster of what you’ve come to believe, but there are a LOT of peckerwood racist garbage out there, they just keep it well hidden because it’s not politically correct or socially acceptable. We may not have segregated drinking fountains anymore…there are plenty of interacial couples and no black men are getting hanged for dating white women, there are plenty of people throughout our culture of all races. But there are deep pockets of rural America especially where non-whites are still a novelty.

In central Minnesota there is a college town which has almost one incident of finding racial or Nazi graffitti every week. The best estimates I’ve seen on the issue suggest that about 4% of the white population will not vote for a black candidate….in larger more urban areas that number is as low as 1–2% and in more rural, particularly deep south areas that number can go as high as 7–8%. That’s not all KKK, that’s not outwardly racist hatemongers…that’s a statistically significant portion of mainstream America which just doesn’t get it, and just because the other 95% of white America has said it’s not acceptable, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist within mainstream America.

Again, what I’ve seen indicates that there are as many competing factors where Obama picks up support because of his race that generally offset that. But you are going to see the states where racism is still most prevalent stay red in this election and in some cases the race factor might have been the only thing that kept it from turning blue. Overall, I don’t think it will cost Obama the election. But I don’t think we can say “it’s simply not a factor in mainstream America outside the KKK types.” That’s just myopic.

robmandu's avatar

@dalpetrie, in an attempt to get on board with your point about privately-motivated racist leanings of some folks, I’ve found a couple of notable references that would seem to fit the bill:

”...a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” – Sen. Barack Obama regarding his typical white grandmother”, Mar. 20, 2008

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” – Sen. Joe Biden regarding Sen. Barack Obama, Feb. 6, 2008.

So, yah… I acknowledge your point. I’m not trying to dodge it.

dalepetrie's avatar

fair enough.

Bri_L's avatar

This is interesting:

The Texas Republican Party’s convention there were buttons asking, “If Obama Is President… Will We Still Call It the White House?”

(source: )

dalepetrie's avatar

And of course when you order the Obama waffles

you might notice the Aunt Jemima like picture on the front of the box, or the turban Obama is wearing on the top.

Very funny they’re trying to slap the waffle lable on Obama this year since it’s the Republican candidate who’s waffled on every single issue. Unless of course this is a chicken n’ waffles reference, which I wouldn’t doubt much, I’m surprised they’re not offering these in watermellon flavor.

robmandu's avatar

@Bri_L… that is another excellent example of dalpetrie‘s point. The vendor himself did not claim overt racist motivation for his so-called “humor”:

The vendor, Jonathan Alcox, said he was trying to be funny and based the button on a political cartoon. He said he made 12 buttons and sold four, two of them to reporters. “Why would I do that purposely? I thought it was funny,” said Alcox, who described himself as an independent.

The Texas GOP fortunately made the correct response:

The party said Wednesday that it will donate the $1,500 rent from the vendor to Midwestern flood victims. “This vendor need not apply to another Texas GOP state convention,” spokesman Hans Klingler said. “We will neither tolerate nor profit from bigotry.”

wundayatta's avatar

Coming from a city that elected a Black mayor who got more of the white vote that the black vote, I know that when people know a candidate, and that candidate speaks the right way (pro-business, but concerned about the rest of us), they can get cross-racial support.

There are, however, vast parts of the country that never see a black face. Black is Other in these areas. Scary. I think Dalepetries comments make sense. The only thing I see going against a McCain win is the current economic crisis. Whether it’s enough to make a difference, though, I don’t know.

I think current polls are showing Obama with a slight lead. Some said it was the wearing off of the McCain bump from the convention. However, I worry that there is that hidden racism effect. People will say they support Obama to a pollster, but they don’t really, in the privacy of the voting booth. Going against that, of course, is Obamas registration efforts. That’s a wild card. At this point, I’d be more surprised if Obama won, than if McCain won.

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