Race And The Race

Brian Braiker, Newsweek, July 6, 2007

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Although 92 percent of the NEWSWEEK Poll’s respondents claim they would vote for a black candidate (up from 83 percent in 1991), only 59 percent believe the country is actually ready for an African-American president (an improvement over 37 percent in a 2000 CBS News poll). Similarly, 86 percent of voters say they would vote for a female commander in chief, but only 58 percent believe the country is ready for one (up from 40 percent in a 1996 CBS poll). Two thirds (66 percent) of voters said there was at least some chance they’d vote for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (35 percent said there was a “good” chance, up from 20 percent last May). About as many (62 percent) said there was some chance they’d vote for Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton (43 percent said good chance, up from 33 percent). In a head-to-head race, though, Clinton dominates Obama 56 to 33 percent.

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More than half (54 percent) of the poll’s respondents say they have a favorable opinion of Obama, up from 31 percent last May (19 percent have an unfavorable one, while 27 percent say they’ve never heard of him, down from 60 percent). Clinton enjoys a favorability rating of 56 percent (38 percent have an unfavorable view of her, a slight improvement over her 53 to 42 percent favorable/unfavorable rating last May).

Although 81 percent of voters say they would cast their ballot for a Hispanic candidate if nominated by their party, only 39 percent of Americans feel the country is ready to elect one—a finding that comes as bad news for Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is seeking his party’s nomination. (More bad news for Richardson: despite his years of experience, only 25 percent of Americans feel he is ready for the job; 57 percent don’t know.) The idea of a Mormon candidate—such as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is seeking the GOP nomination—is even more polarizing. Just over a third of voters think the country is ready to elect a Mormon; 50 percent don’t.

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