Whose Dream Come True: Whites and Blacks on the Election

CNN just did a nationwide poll on the reactions of Americans to the election of Senator Obama as president, which they only break out for white and black African Americans. A couple of their questions are rather suggestive, possibly deeply revealing, about the great gulf between the majorities of white Americans and of black Americans in the framing of this historic election:

For most African-Americans, the election of Barack Obama as president was a dream come true that they didn’t think they would see…. Eighty percent of African-Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey said that Obama’s election was a dream come true, and 71 percent said they never thought a black candidate for president would get elected in their lifetime.

However, the white majority had a rather different reaction:

Among white Americans, only 28 percent said Obama’s victory in the race for the White House was a dream come true, with the vast majority, 70 percent, saying it was not.

A majority of whites also claimed that they thought this might happen:

Fifty-nine percent of white respondents said they thought a black president would be elected in their lifetime, but only 29 percent of black respondents agreed.

These survey questions are rather superficial and not the best one might have asked, but that first one on a “dream come true” does seem to reveal a huge difference in the positive emotional reactions and interpretive framing of this pathbreaking election across the old racial hierarchy. (Are many whites implying it is the opposite, a nightmare?)

Even those whites who have celebrated this election usually seem to be coming from a substantially different perspective and frame (certainly experiential history) than those black Americans who are dramatically celebrating a dream come true.

What do you think? Please add comments.


  1. Little is surprising in this survey, to my mind. Perhaps the only aspect i find mildly curious is that 59% of whites believed there would be a black president in their lifetime. None that i have spoken to believed that, and sadly some professed to never having even considered it.

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