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Race, Sex and the Battle for the Democratic Nod

Race and gender are this week's central flash-points in the race for the Democratic nomination. Here are some data from the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll to add to the mix.

Clinton's advantages in national polling, which basically evaporated in the new poll, relied on overwhelming support among women. Now, a week and a half before the South Carolina primary, the new poll finds a gap emerging between white women and black women.

It's a divide that may prove critical: African Americans made up nearly half of the Palmetto state's Democratic primary voters in 2004; black women made up 29 percent.

A month ago both white and black women favored Clinton by wide margins, but there's been a big shift. While white women continue to favor Clinton (though by a diminished margin), black women have jumped to Obama, now preferring the Illinois senator by 24 percentage points.

Notably, the change is not a broad indictment of Clinton, but an improved outlook on Obama.

Ninety percent of black women view Clinton favorably, the same as for Obama. But some of the shine is off: 57 percent have "strongly" positive views about Clinton, down from 72 percent in early November.

Black women's greater support for Obama may also hinge on an enthusiasm gap. While black women and white women are about equally likely to say they are more enthusiastic about Clinton's candidacy because of the historic possibility it offers (her being first female president), black women are twice as likely as white women to be so inspired by Obama's shot at being the nation's first African American president.

Here are the crosstabs among these key groups:

Primary vote among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents:
Clinton Obama Edwards
All likely voters 42 37 11
Men 33 42 14
Women 47 36 8
Whites 41 33 14
African Americans 32 60 3
White men 31 38 18
White women 50 30 11
Black women 35 59 2

The Post-ABC national poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 9-12 among a random national sample of 1,130, including additional interviews with randomly-selected African Americans for a total of 202 black respondents. The margin of sampling error for the full poll is plus or minus three percentage points, it is plus or minus 10 points for black women and plus or minus seven points for white women. The poll's sample of black men was too small to report.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  January 14, 2008; 4:38 PM ET
Categories:  Post Polls  
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Next: New Year, New Low for Bush


What in the world is empowering to women about a candidate who owes everything to her philandering husband? Is the message that a woman should marry her a meal ticket in order to get ahead? It all seems belitlling and self-destructive to me.

Posted by: Lucky Lakeshore | January 14, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh come ON! what a sexist thing to say about Hillary? If you assume she has accomplished all that she has merely because she is married to Bill, then why wouldn't that connection apply to OTHER wives, Laura Bush for example? Hillary is intelligent and accomplished in her own right, just as Barak Obama is. She has a long record of working for children's rights, maintained her own career, and was elected Senator. No less than most OTHER candidates. To assume she is where she is because of her husband, is a shallow and uninformed comment on her history.

Posted by: Suzanne | January 14, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Obama is more of a woman than Hillary. Who else has seen that Family Guy episode?

Posted by: thecrisis | January 14, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is claiming experience by being a wife living in the white house? did the white house cook..maybe he should run for office.

Posted by: jim | January 14, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is claiming experience by being a wife living in the white house? did the white house cook..maybe he should run for office.

Posted by: jim | January 14, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't think this has as much to do with the candidates as it does to selling hairspray on the pg. 10 ad.

Of course the race is going to get closer as the votes approach. It happens in every single election cycle.

People are making a rash of uncomplimentary statements based upon the current MSM push.

Did anyone ever hear HRC say that she was the given nominee? No

Posted by: RetCombatVet | January 14, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I really think that all these vitriolic comments are due to everyones frustration with the last eight years or they are written by Karl Rove.

I refuse to believe that people really believe what they are posting about Hillary,, particularly women. You get so angry about a particular woman, that most likely means you dislike women. And if you are female, that includes yourself.

Same with Obama. You hate him it's likely you suffer from some pretty heavy insecurity.

I think you can disagree without putting your personal issues out there for all too see.

Just the way it works in out little minds.

Posted by: MadeleineFL | January 14, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Why is the category "Black Men" missing???

Posted by: stat | January 14, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

So we're saying that Hillary, despite having more experience in the Senate than either Obama or Edwards, and despite having spent the better part of two decades observing (and probably also having some role in forming) the policy apparatus of successful gubernatorial and presidential administrations in Little Rock and Washington, is less qualified because...?

Posted by: Alex | January 14, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

I think this "racial" narrative is one the Media is clamoring for, and a narrative that exposes the ugly racist underpinings of our media. Obama has DEFENDED Clinton on matters of race: "Sen. Barack Obama told ABC News Monday there is nothing in Sen. Hillary Clinton's record that would give him any cause for concern about her in terms of racial politics"

Now, if Obama is defending Clinton and agrees there's no racial issue in this campaign, why is the Media saying there is? It's because they want there to be a racial issue. Racial division and confrontation drive the ratings numbers up and bring our Democracy down. This isn't about Race, Hairstyle, Personal Wealth, Youthful Indescretion, Adultery, Fear-mongering, trash talking, name calling and foolish games. We're trying to elect a president and practice Democracy despite all the noise, not because of it.

Posted by: AppeaseThis | January 14, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I really want this confusion to end. It isn't even this bad in other less democratic countries. I applaud Obama for holding his head up. He is such a gentleman.

Posted by: Adjetey | January 14, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

The numbers mentioned in the narrative of this story don't match up with the "cross tab" data shown underneath:

"While white women continue to favor Clinton (though by a diminished margin), black women have jumped to Obama, now preferring the Illinois senator by 24 percentage points."


Black women Clinton - 59 Obama - 35 Edwards - 2

Am I missing something?

Posted by: K. Nedd | January 14, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I am an educated registered Black republican that will be voting for Obama and supporting his bid for president with my vote, resources and influence. We need a new direction and a change from the same old politics of old and from the dynasty building of the Clinton and Bush families. Hillary is not owed the presidency nor is she entitled because she is a woman. She taunts her "experience" in getting things done. What would that be and why are we still in a world of trouble? Finally, Black America, wake up and let go of the (Black elitist old guard) that have done very "little" to help the middle-class, the poor or wealthy Black people in America. Obama could be the person to bring unity, decency and civility to America and to American politics; after all, he is Black and White. Please give him the opportunity!

Posted by: Charlene | January 14, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

K. Nedd - Thank you for catching our typo, the table above has been corrected. Among black women, the vote is 59 Obama, 35 Clinton.

Stat - Black men are not included here because the poll's sample size was not large enough to report.

Posted by: Jennifer Agiesta | January 14, 2008 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Fools no longer rush in where angels fear to tread - they can't shoulder their way past the pollsters. The current pollster chatter is the two big issues in the presidential race are the war in Iraq and the economy, with race on standby in case those predictions develop fatal New Hampshire disease.

With February 5 and "Tsunami Tuesday" primaries less than a month away, what you don't hear is much talk about illegal immigration and what we do about 14-16 million souls, most Hispanic and mostly Mexican.

That's very odd when you look at the Tsunami states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah. Illegal immigration has been an issue in all.

For some - notably Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado and New Mexico -- it has been a Very Big Issue. Which is why the overwhelming silence from the frontrunners, punctuated by occasional projectile politicking, is so depressing.

Of the top six candidates who have yet to become trivia-quiz answers, only Huckabee puts illegal immigration at the top of his website list of issues. For the others, Clinton, Obama, Edwards, McCain and Romney, it doesn't even make the top five. And for all six, the menu is pretty much Platitudes with Piety Salad or Red Meat With DeportEm Sauce.

All the politicians pretty much ignore that deciding the fate of 16 million fellow humans is also deciding our own, whether now or in the court we all will face. For this issue, there are no easy answers or simple plans. But there are, increasingly, frameworks for discussion, mostly in books.

I wrote one such, "Opening the Borders" (Level 4 Press 2007). Patrick Buchanan wrote another, "State of Emergency" (St. Martin's Griffin 2007). And a search on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or other booksellers will find those viewpoints and everything in between.

All the books are probably candles in the political whirlwind, but when the 2009 presidential inauguration trash hits a landfill, the problem of illegal immigration will remain. And it will grow unless something is done that begins with thought and walks hand-in-hand with reason, fairness and a sense of common humanity.

It would be nice to see such an initiative coming from our current political leaders, but history suggests it must first come from us. Remember that individual liberty, universal voting, ending slavery and segregation didn't come from the top down - they came boiling up from the bottom.

On illegal immigration, it's time to bring the bottom to a boil.
Larry Blasko, Summit NJ

Posted by: Larry Blasko | January 14, 2008 10:43 PM | Report abuse

get with it suzanne. Hillary would definitely not be in this race if not married to Bill...could she ever have won the NY senate seat? Give me a break!

Posted by: akminstral | January 14, 2008 11:04 PM | Report abuse

What worries me about Hillary is not shown in these polls, but rather by the comments beneath them. Hillary and her supporters are constantly on the defense mode, constantly deciphering every word or number as an insult. What happens when she is actually attacked, say perhaps, by Republicans? Does this election become an all-out war? Do we lose sight of what is important, like our future, in the zealous rush to stop this exaggerated threat of sexism? Thats my greatest fear, that we lose the war for tomorrow because are stuck in the battles of yesterday.

Posted by: Emily | January 15, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

All of these issues are a smoke screen. The absolute truth of the matter is this: Hilary has had 35 years or 16 years depending on whose telling the story.

Gee, perhaps someone could point to that important piece of legislation that she passed. If she had done such a great job there wouldn't be a debate over her record.

Obama is new, and therefore, is more likely to contribute to actual change. If Hilary wanted change so bad why didn't she push for some? I don't care about minor achievements that paint her as middle American.

Fact: She represents more of the same. She wins, 8 years of divisive politics nationwide, and then we've had the first female president

Fact: Obama DOES represent change in America. He represents 8 years that could initiate another "Era of Good Feelings" in this country. And we've had someone who honestly would make a better president, not according to gender or race.

I say bring the country together, with a person, who doesn't have long standing beefs in both parties and is unable to gain traction for legislation.

Posted by: JCM | January 16, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Hillary clinton has a lot of great expectations for this country. I rather vote for a individual with experience. Both canidates will bring postive change.

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