Poll: Obama not hurt by pastor
Democrats Are Tied in New Poll
Prolonged Contest Is Starting to Wear On Clinton,
By JACKIE CALMES
March 27, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The racially charged debate over Barack
Obama's relationship with his longtime pastor hasn't
much changed his close contest against Hillary
Clinton, or hurt him against Republican
nominee-in-waiting John McCain, according to a new
Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the
Journal/NBC polls with Republican pollster Bill
McInturff, called the latest poll a "myth-buster" that
showed the pastor controversy is "not the beginning of
the end for the Obama campaign."
Myth-Buster: A new poll says the controversy over
Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor hasn't hurt his
Bruising Fight: The battle for the nomination is
wounding both Sen. Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Ominous Sign: Sen. Clinton is losing ground among
But both Democrats, and especially New York's Sen.
Clinton, are showing wounds from their prolonged and
increasingly bitter nomination contest, which could
weaken the ultimate nominee for the general-election
showdown against Sen. McCain of Arizona. Even among
women, who are the base of Sen. Clinton's support, she
now is viewed negatively by more voters than
positively for the first time in a Journal/NBC poll.
The latest survey has the Democratic rivals in a dead
heat, each with 45% support from registered Democratic
voters. That is a slight improvement for Sen. Obama,
though a statistically insignificant one, from the
last Journal/NBC poll, two weeks ago, which had Sen.
Clinton leading among Democratic voters, 47% to 43%.
While Sen. Clinton still leads among white Democrats,
her edge shrank to eight points (49% to 41%) from 12
points in early March (51% to 39%). That seems to
refute widespread speculation -- and fears among Sen.
Obama's backers -- that he would lose white support
for his bid to be the nation's first African-American
president over the controversy surrounding his former
pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Chicago.
Had that erosion happened, party leaders' reassessment
of Sen. Obama's electability could have tipped the
race to Sen. Clinton's favor. Weathering the episode
could strengthen his standing among the party leaders
nationwide -- the superdelegates -- whose votes are
likely to break the impasse.
Beyond the nomination race, in hypothetical matchups
for November's election Sen. Obama still edges Sen.
McCain 44% to 42%. That is nearly the same result as
in the early March poll, before videos of Mr. Wright's
most fiery sermons spread over the Internet. But Sen.
Clinton, who likewise had a narrow advantage over Sen.
McCain in the earlier survey, trails in this one by
two points, 44% to his 46%.
The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday, a week
after Sen. Obama delivered a generally well-received
address on race. The poll's margin for error is 3.7
percentage points for questions put to a cross-section
of 700 registered voters, and slightly higher for
those questions put only to subgroups of Democratic,
Republican or black voters.
As reassuring as the poll is for Sen. Obama, Mr. Hart
and Mr. McInturff agreed that it did indicate that a
substantial number of voters question whether the
first-term senator would be a safe choice, or whether
more needs to be known about him. Mr. McInturff said
some voters are wondering, "Do we know enough about
While the senator's support among Democrats is little
changed, he did slip among conservatives and
Republican voters, groups that had shown some
attraction to Sen. Obama's message of changing
partisan politics in Washington. "I think the survey
does indicate that this has taken a little of the
patina off Sen. Obama," Mr. McInturff said.
But the pollster also saw "some evidence here that
Sen. Obama's speech did him well." The candidate's
support for his handling of the Wright matter was
stronger among those voters who said they saw his
In the Philadelphia address, which Sen. Obama wrote
and titled "A More Perfect Union," he criticized his
former pastor for his condemnations of the U.S. for
its injustices to blacks, but refused to renounce him.
He also sought to explain to both blacks and whites
the grievances that each holds against the other,
while urging both to recognize their real enemies are
shared ones -- chiefly economic and educational
inequality, and the job losses from globalization.
The Clinton campaign had steered clear of the Wright
controversy, until Sen. Clinton this week told
interviewers she would have found a new minister had
hers made the remarks Mr. Wright did. Sen. Obama for
two decades has attended the 8,000-member Chicago
church where Mr. Wright, who retired recently, was
The negativity of the Obama-Clinton contest seems to
be hurting Sen. Clinton more, the poll shows. A 52%
majority of all voters says she doesn't have the
background or values they identify with. By
comparison, 39% say that of Sen. Obama, and 32% of
Also, fewer voters hold positive views of Sen. Clinton
than did so just two weeks ago in the Journal/NBC
poll. Among all voters, 48% have negative feelings
toward her and 37% positive, a decline from a net
positive 45% to 43% rating in early March. While 51%
of African-American voters have positive views, that
is down 12 points from earlier this month, before the
More ominous for Sen. Clinton is the net-negative
rating she drew for the first time from women, one of
the groups where she has drawn most support. In this
latest poll, women voters with negative views narrowly
outstrip those with positive ones, 44% to 42%. That
compares with her positive rating from 51% of women in
the earlier March poll.
Both she and Sen. Obama showed five-point declines in
positive ratings from white voters. But where she is
viewed mostly negatively, by 51% to 34% of whites,
Sen. Obama's gets a net positive rating, by 42% to
37%. Among all voters, he maintained a significant
positive-to-negative score of 49% to 32% -- similar to
Sen. McCain's 45% to 25%.
The toll on both Democrats from their rhetorical
brawling is evident in these poll findings: About a
fifth of Clinton voters say they would support Sen.
McCain if she isn't the Democratic nominee, and
likewise a fifth of Obama voters say they would do the
same if he isn't the party standard-bearer.
Write to Jackie Calmes at jackie.calmes@...