- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2008

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Sen. Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an Associated Press -Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks - many calling them “lazy,” “violent” or responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Mr. Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 - about 2.5 percentage points.

Still, the survey also showed that doubts is his own party about his competence and executive ability are responsible for far greater numbers of Democrats not supporting Mr. Obama or supporting Republican Sen. John McCain.

Certainly, Mr. McCain has his own obstacles: the Arizona senator is an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation’s oldest first-term president. But Mr. Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.

More than one-third of all white Democrats and independents - voters Mr. Obama can’t win the White House without - agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Mr. Obama than those who don’t have such views.

“There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s only a few bigots,” said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the survey.

The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. It has a margin of error of 2.1 percentage points.

A model derived from the poll results suggested that these problems could cost Mr. Obama up to six percentage points of support.

The findings suggest that Mr. Obama’s problem is close to home - among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Mr. Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back Mr. McCain.

Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Mr. Obama. On the other side of the racial question, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from blacks, the poll shows.

Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Mr. Obama. Doubts about his competence loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Mr. Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that. Three in 10 of those Democrats who don’t trust Mr. Obama’s change-making credentials say they plan to vote for Mr. McCain.

The AP-Yahoo poll used the unique methodology of Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that interviews people online after randomly selecting and screening them over telephone. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to report embarrassing behavior and unpopular opinions when answering questions on a computer rather than talking to a stranger.

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word “violent” strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with “boastful,” 29 percent “complaining,” 13 percent “lazy” and 11 percent “irresponsible.”

Among white Democrats, one-third cited a negative adjective and, of those, just 58 percent said they planned to back Mr. Obama.

More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.” Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Mr. Obama than those who didn’t.

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