What Do Whites Want? Why The Papers Are Getting The Race Polls Wrong

By Jeff Chang Jul 16, 2008

Reposted from Zentronix So many race polls, so little insight. Today’s sober NY Times poll on the presidential election and race relations comes to the very same conclusions that the wacky Washington Post poll—which turned into a game of "White People: So You Think You’re Not Racist?"—found last month: Blacks really love Obama and whites kinda like McCain. Good work, fellas! The Obama campaign hit back hard this morning, saying basically, "Hey! A lot of whites other than his grandma actually like him. And Michelle, too." White liberals like Bill Scher back them up. Scher notes that although Obama trails McCain by 9 points, he is running much better among whites than John Kerry did in 2004, especially among working-class whites. The Times headline—"Obama’s Run Isn’t Closing Divide On Race"—is only half-right. In fact, the race polls on the race show that he may be running well enough among whites to secure enough votes to win. Why is the press not getting this? Partly because, again big surprise, it’s stuck in the past. Since the pivotal 1968 election, when Richard Nixon and George C. Wallace turned racial backlash into a Republican majority, the partisan divide has largely been a reflection of racial divide. Just as demagoguery on civil rights put African Americans in the blue column, demagoguery on immigration has put Latinos and Asian Americans there for decades to come. In 2008, another demographic shift is on. Obama’s coalition could forge a new majority, one rooted in large part by racially progressive, not reactionary, politics. The MSM is still very late to the game here. Instead they have conflated two huge stories in these polls. The first story is whether or not Obama is leading in the race for the presidency. Here the evidence points solidly to a new majority. The second is what does the race for the presidency say about race? This is an aspirational story. News editors are making the same leap that many people of color are making. (Which is not, in my opinion, a bad decision, even from the business/publishing side.) They are jumping to this question: Would the election of Barack Obama improve race relations? In both polls, whites are loudly saying, "No". Very few in the MSM have yet thought to ask, "Why?" But there’s where your real story is.