One Poll Worth Reading

Washington Matters

One Poll Worth Reading

Regular readers of this nascent blog know that we're not big fans of polls -- especially at this point in the campaign -- but there is one exception: the nonpartisan and highly respect Pew Research Center's surveys, which tend to go below the surface and probe more deeply into why voters are behaving the way they do. The latest Pew poll, released late yesterday, has a lot to chew on.



Among the most important and interesting findings of the poll, conducted March 19-22:

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1)     A little over half of those surveyed (51%) say they've heard "a lot" about the controversy involving the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's pastor. About the same number (54%) have heard "a lot" about Obama's speech dealing with the issue and the broader question of race.


2)     Obama has a 49% to 39% lead over Hillary Clinton among Democrats nationally, about the same as a month earlier. The Pew results suggest that the Wright controversy has not undermined support among those who were already backing Obama, though it has hardened opposition among those favoring Clinton and among Republicans inclined to John McCain.  A significantly larger share of conservative Republicans hold a "very unfavorable" view of Obama than did in February, before the Wright controversy burst into the open.


3)     Almost a quarter (23%) of Democrats who oppose Obama (and 10% of all Democrats) believe he is a Muslim, a startling figure that suggests the whispering campaign against him is working. (14% of Republicans and 8% of Independents also believe he's a Muslim.) It's curious that he's being hit as a Muslim at the same time that he's being criticized for not quitting the Christian church that Wright ran. and others have provided pretty convincing proof that the Muslin charge is a smear. Clinton had a chance to help quell the rumors, but took an ambiguous approach in a CBS interview, an excerpt of which is available on YouTube, saying Obama is a Christian "as far as  I know."


4)     White voters who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely than those with favorable views (45% to 19%)  to say that equal rights for minorities have been pushed too far. They are also more likely (48% to 31%) to believe that immigrants pose a threat to American values. Less educated whites, a majority of whom favor Clinton, are most likely to hold these views.


5)     About twice as many white Democrats (30% to 16%) say the word "phony" applies to Clinton more than to Obama. A majority of white Democrats view Obama as honest, inspiring and down to earth. He beats Clinton in every positive description except one -- patriotic. She leads on that modifier among white Democrats, 90% to 78%.


Asked to list their top issue concerns, the economy came out on top, and when asked to be specific, 49% pointed to inflation. Rising prices outranked job concerns (19%), financial markets (14%) and housing values (12%).