Whites largely shunned Barack Obama in Mississippi’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday as the Deep South showed once again its reluctance to embrace him across racial lines.
While nine in 10 blacks lined up behind the Illinois senator, about three-fourths of whites supported Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to preliminary figures from an exit poll of voters across Mississippi. That made the state’s contest one of the most racially divided this year.
Only in two other states have more than seven in 10 whites backed Clinton, and both were in the South—next-door Alabama and Arkansas, where she was first lady while her husband, Bill Clinton, was governor.
Further underscoring the importance of race, nearly four in 10 blacks said race was important in choosing their candidate. Of that group, nine in 10 supported Obama.
Among whites, about two in 10 said they considered race when deciding their vote. Nine in 10 of them voted for Clinton.
White men and women alike were voting heavily for Clinton. While she has consistently dominated among white women, the two have split the allegiance of white men about equally overall and Obama has had some strong performances with them since the Super Tuesday voting on Feb. 5.
Clinton did better than usual with white groups with whom she usually prevails, including those who are less educated, earn the least and are older. She also prevailed with white voters Obama usually captures, including college-educated men, independents and those under age 45.
Sen. Barack Obama claimed victory by a wide margin over Sen. Hillary Clinton in Mississippi’s Democratic primary Tuesday.
“What we’ve tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state we are making the case about the need for change in this country. Obviously the people in Mississippi responded,” Obama told CNN after his win.
Mississippi had 33 pledged delegates up for grabs, which will be allocated proportionally.
The state’s Democratic voters were sharply divided among racial lines, exit polls indicated.
As has been the case in many primary states, Obama won overwhelming support from African-American voters. They went for him over Clinton 91-9 percent.
The state has a larger proportion of African-Americans (36 percent, according to the 2000 census) than any other state in the country. And black voters make up nearly 70 percent of registered Democrats.
But Mississippi white voters overwhelmingly backed the New York senator, supporting her over Obama 72 percent to 21 percent.
According to The Associated Press, only two other primary states were as racially polarized—neighboring Alabama, and Clinton’s former home state of Arkansas.
The exit polls also indicated roughly 40 percent of Mississippi Democratic voters said race was an important factor in their vote, and 90 percent of those voters supported Obama.