I'm not much on polls this far before an election, but a CBS News/New York Times poll out today focuses on race and has some interesting numbers.
We tend, I think, to believe that we're getting better about race. If you're as old as I am, you remember America before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the1960s, and you know what a different country that was. This poll suggests, though, that not much has changed lately and that race still looms large in our lives.
Nearly 60% of blacks said race relations were generally bad. Just 34% of whites agreed. Four in ten blacks say there has been no progress in recent years in eliminating racial discrimination; fewer than two in ten whites agree. Half of the blacks polled said not enough had been made of racial barriers facing them; about a quarter of the whites polled thought too much has been made of those barriers. 55% of whites said race relations are good, almost double the figure for blacks. And so on.
Politically? 80% of black voters had a favorable opinion of Barack Obama, compared to about 30% of the whites. 56% of blacks had a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama, 24% of whites.
One ethnic group Obama and Hillary Clinton fought for in the primaries was Hispanics. In this poll, they favored Obama over John McCain 62--23%.
Character questions? Blacks were more likely than whites to say Obama cares about people like them. Whites were more likely to say that he says what he thinks voters want to hear. Half the blacks, and 29% of the whites thought race relations would improve if Obama became president.
For poll experts, I should add that this poll oversampled blacks and Hispanics so as to reduce the margin of error when analyzing their responses. The margin is plus or minus six percent.
What does it all mean? Clearly, America can elect a black. Clearly, that won't end racism or magically transform race relations. Clearly, though, it might help.
This columnist, by the way, heaved a sigh of relief this morning. Atlanta Congressman John Lewis won his primary yesterday with 68% of the vote. Way to go!
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