Clinton’s Main Strength: Not Working Class Whites

At the Gallup website, Frank Newport does a provocative gender/racial analysis, titled “Obama Faces Uphill Climb vs. McCain Among White Voters. He shows that white women, not white working class voters, are the key to Clinton’s greater polling success versus McCain:

Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee, will likely enter the general election with more of a handicap among white voters than would have been the case if Hillary Clinton had been the nominee, based mainly on Clinton’s stronger performance among white women.

He offers this chart from a recent survey:

A new Gallup Poll analysis of Daily tracking data collected between May 1 and May 17 shows that Clinton’s edge among white voters is not, as some have hypothesized, based on Obama’s problems among blue-collar white men, but reflects more the fact of Clinton’s strength among white women.

In this recent survey both do equally poorly versus McCain among white men:

In general, Obama and Clinton perform exactly the same among non-Hispanic white men when pitted against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. Both Obama and Clinton lose to McCain among this group by 21-point margins, 36% to 57%.

He then provides the key implications for Obama, who is the likely Democratic candidate versus McCain in November:

The bigger issue appears to be Obama’s problems among white women, when compared to how Clinton would perform among this group. Obama loses to McCain by nine points among white women, while Clinton wins by three points. Clinton does better than Obama among both blue-collar and white-collar white women. All in all, although both Democrats are to a degree handicapped against McCain among white voters, Clinton would perform better than Obama in a general-election matchup among non-Hispanic whites.

In spite of all Clinton’s difficulties, she is still the stronger candidate versus McCain in numerous opinion polls. This suggests the power of anti-Obama feelings, some of it likely the white racial frame again, among significant segments of white voters. It also suggests the very strong desire of many (white) women to see a woman win the presidency.  Also, Newsweek just released another poll showing serious problems for Senator Obama (versus McCain) among white voters–yet more evidence for racist issues in this election.

Does Senator Obama have any chance to win versus McCain if white women voters in the Democratic Party remain angry, as many are, over the openly sexist treatment of Senator Clinton by the mass media and some of Senator Obama’s supporters? The lack of honest and extensive public discussions of both US racism and sexism is one of the saddest realities of this electoral season.


  1. Rob

    Among the Clinton and Obama supporters, don’t polls show that far more of the former than the latter will vote for McCain in the general election if their favorite doesn’t win the nomination? And, if so, doesn’t this show that racism is far more salient a motivational factor than sexism in the election?

  2. Joe Author

    Yes, the polls seem to show what you suggest, and that is one measure of the resistance to voting for one or the other Senator within the Democratic party, after this intense primary season.

    Senator Obama faces much resistance from white voters. Very important is that a majority of white voters do NOT vote in the Democratic primaries, as they are independents and Republicans, so they have yet to be heard from on Senator Obama, or for that matter on Senator Clinton. Polls suggest those non-Dem. whites who will consider a Democrat are more likely to vote for a Clinton than an Obama, though McCain does well in both cases.

    There are many websites dedicated to attacking Senator Obama in the most vicious ways, and racist thinking among whites remains a huge barrier for him.

    At the same time, the level of blatantly sexist commentary and attacks on Clinton, especially in the mainstream media, shows that this country also has a long way to go before it is anywhere close to a nonsexist country it often claims to be.

    This is ultimately how white men stay in power, by getting those who are not white and male to contend with each other……


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