Over at the Gallup website, Frank Newport reports that “Most [Americans] Say Race Will Not Be a Factor in Their Presidential Vote.” In a recent Gallup phone survey of 1,102 “adult” respondents nationally (plus an extra sample of Black Americans), Gallup reported this chart on how people feel about the impact of Senator Obama being Black on votes for him:
The largest percentages of both groups are guessing there will be little effect, with about a fifth estimating some gain. It seems likely that Blacks and whites have different groups in mind too when they are thinking about “gains” here. The “cost him votes” position is chosen by 28 percent of Blacks and 26 percent of whites. It is my educated guess that this 26 percent of whites is likely the minimum percentage of whites who will actually vote against Senator Obama in November just because he is Black. The percentage is much lower when whites are asked directly about whether his being Black might affect their vote (just 6 percent in this survey), but social desirability likely kicks in when whites are responding about personal racial views to a stranger over the phone. New research on backstage racism (see also here) certainly suggests there is a very high level of antiblack thinking in much of the white population today, and this is certainly going to affect voting patterns in November 2008.
Gallup also presents another chart from this national survey that indicates respondents’ choices on a question about whether the Republican Party is likely to use “race as an issue” this November. That pattern is thus:
Some 70 percent of black respondents think the Republican Party is very or somewhat likely to make use of “race” in the campaign, compared to a still sizeable but smaller 49 percent of whites.Well, actually, this has already happened, just to take one major example, in the widely discussed case of Dr. Jeremiah Wright, whose story has been widely circulated by various Republican groups and sympathizers in the mass media. These attacks are usually straight out of a white racist framing of African Americans and their leaders.We have also seen recently overtly racist attacks on Michelle Obama from Republican Party activists and their right-wing sympathizers in the media (like Michelle Malkin who defended Fox in the “baby mama” slur).
(Note: These Gallup respondents are not registered voters, so that makes interpretations of their possible voting behavior somewhat less clear. Gallup also asks quite weak questions on these racial issues and voting, apparently with no follow-up questions asking about why people give such answers. Given how central racism is to the election this year, it seems yet another sign of the white racial framing, that many relevant questions are not asked and answered. Also, why do they not do some focus groups to get at how whites and others articulate these views in their own words?)