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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Black Man, White Woman - Can Obama or Hillary Win the General Presidential Election

As the presidential candidates race the clock and various new polls come out regarding the status of candidates, there is a equally important article from Mark Mellman a Democratic pollster in the LA Times asking the question Can a woman or a black man win? Check out the article, it makes an interesting read:

Can a woman or a black man win?

By Mark Mellman

As a pollster, I've been asked repeatedly: Can an African American or a woman really win the presidency?

Allowing my partisan hopes to outrun my certain knowledge, I have generally answered in the affirmative, almost reflexively.

But is it really true? Our real-world experience, frankly, is less than reassuring. The private sector provides ample evidence that discrimination against blacks and women still exists in education, hiring, advancement and pay. More to the point, few women or blacks hold high public office. More than half the country is female, yet women make up just about 17% of House members, senators and governors.

African Americans represent about 11% of the electorate and occupy about that percentage of seats in the House, but most represent majority black districts. There is only one black governor and a single African American senator -- and he is trying to flee for the White House!

Those statistics are troubling but not necessarily conclusive. A range of barriers -- from the entrenched incumbency of white men to lesser fundraising bases for women and blacks -- could account for these dreary facts. Indeed, when women run in general elections for Congress, they win at least as often as similarly situated men.

In addition, public opinion data indicate Americans at least understand that it is socially unacceptable to voice negative sentiments about blacks or women in the White House. Just 5% told Gallup pollsters that they would not vote for a black, and 11% said they would withhold support from a woman.

Such was not always the case. In 1958, 53% admitted to Gallup that they would be unwilling to support an African American and 41% would refuse to back a woman. Even today, voters appear comfortable confessing certain prejudices -- 24% claimed they would not vote for a Mormon, for instance; 42% would not vote for a 72-year-old, and 53% would oppose an atheist.

Although these poll results seem to reflect a fundamental change in attitudes toward women and blacks, we can't be sure they herald altered voting behavior. Pointing to the New Hampshire polling fiasco -- in which the polls uniformly failed to predict the correct winner -- many assert that surveys cannot accurately measure the effect of race. In truth, though, Barack Obama got exactly the vote in New Hampshire the polls predicted; what cries out for explanation is the substantial under-prediction of Hillary Clinton's vote. Read More HERE

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