March 27, 2008
Poll Shows Obama Unhurt by Wright Flap
A new Wall Street Journal-NBC poll shows that Barack Obama has escaped serious damage as a result of his association with racist preacher Jeremiah Wright.
In fact, the poll shows little change from a poll taken last March in raw numbers although Obama's negatives rose slightly among some specific groups.
The poll "oversampled" African Americans in order to get a more reliable take on the Wright issue. This is a common practice when polling a minority group or opinion. Normal sampling would be suspect because there wouldn't be a statistically significant number of respondents.
Obama is still competitive with McCain when it comes to independent voters:
As for the damage this controversy did or didn't do to Obama, it's a mixed bag. Yes, Obama saw some of his numbers go down slightly among certain voting groups, most notably Republicans. But he's still much more competitive with independent voters when matched up against John McCain than Hillary Clinton is. And he still sports a net-positive personal rating of 49-32, which is down only slightly from two weeks ago, when it was 51-28.A poll like this gives a different perspective than the Rasmussen or Gallup daily tracking numbers. This survey is a snapshot of a moment in the campaign while the daily numbers reveal more trends in the race. The oversampling of strong Democratic voters like African Americans probably contributed to smaller head to head numbers for McCain - certainly at or beyond the margin of error.
Again, the biggest shift in those negative numbers were among Republicans. On one of the most critical questions we've been tracking for a few months, Obama showed resilience. When asked if the three presidential candidates could be successful in uniting the country if they were elected president, 60 percent of all voters believed Obama could be successful at doing this, 58 percent of all voters said McCain could unite the country while only 46 percent of voters said the same about Clinton. All three candidates saw dips on this issue, by the way. In January, 67 percent thought Obama could unite the country; 68 percent thought McCain could do it; and 55 percent said Clinton would be able to pull it off. The fact that all three dropped equally in the last three months is a sign that the campaign is becoming more ideological and partisan.
In the head-to-head matchups, there weren't huge shifts in the numbers, with Obama and Clinton dead even at 45 percent in the national Democratic primary matchup (a slight increase for Obama from early March). In the general-election matchups, Obama led McCain by 2 points, and McCain led Clinton by 2 points; all margin of error results and nothing to get too excited over.
Given all that is working against the GOP at the moment - the economy, an unpopular war and president, and a candidate that has not generated a lot of enthusiasm among the Republican base, John McCain appears to be in pretty good shape at this point in the campaign. He appears to match up well with either Democrat and is well positioned to fight for the all-important independent voter.
Chalk it up to good luck or perhaps Hillary Clinton's persistence in not giving in to calls for her to withdraw. But the state of the race in late March shows John McCain with a slight edge over either of his Democratic rivals. And that's something that no one would have predicted a few months ago.