PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama's extremely strong support among black Democratic voters offsets Hillary Clinton's advantages among whites and Hispanics.
An analysis of almost 3,000 interviews conducted over the last week with national Democratic voters highlights the degree to which Obama has been able to secure the support of black Democrats, while Clinton, his major opponent, has held on to her edge among white and Hispanic Democratic voters.
The interviews were conducted as part of Gallup Poll Daily election tracking between Feb. 25 and March 2. During this period, Obama had an overall 48% to 43% lead over Clinton among all Democratic voters nationwide (in the latest three-day average of interviews conducted March 1-3, the candidates are tied at 45%). But the detailed analysis shows much wider differences in support for the two leading Democratic candidates within major racial and ethnic subgroups.
Obama had a substantial lead among non-Hispanic black Democratic voters -- 76% to 17% -- in the Feb. 25- March 2 sample. Blacks comprise about 19% of the Democratic voters surveyed across this period.
At the same time, Clinton had a 50% to 41% lead among non-Hispanic whites in the sample. Whites -- about two-thirds of the Democratic voters in the sample -- comprise by far the largest racial or ethnic segment of the Democratic electorate.
Over this seven-day period, Clinton also had a substantial lead among white Hispanic voters, 55% to 39%. An analysis of Clinton's support among Hispanic Democratic voters this year shows that while there have been week-to-week fluctuations, she has generally led each week. (White Hispanics comprise about 6% of the national Democratic vote, based on the data from Feb. 25 -- March 2.)
In addition to non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanic whites, there is a small group of Democratic voters that falls into other racial classifications. These include those who identify their race as Asian, those who claim a racial classification other than white, black, or Asian, and those who do not identify their race or ethnic origin. Obama leads among this group.
It may not be surprising to find that Obama -- the first black to be his party's front-runner at this point in the campaign -- dominates the vote preferences of black Democratic voters. The current analysis suggests that Obama's powerful strength among this group has propelled him -- during the week of Feb. 25-March 2 at any rate -- to his overall modest lead in support among Democrats nationwide. His major opponent, Clinton, leads among the majority of Democratic voters who are non-Hispanic white and Hispanic white, but that lead has not been large enough to offset Obama's overwhelming strength among blacks.
These are national data, and do not necessarily represent the voting patterns in specific states -- particularly the key Tuesday primary states of Texas and Ohio. Still, should Obama win the Democratic nomination, these data provide some basis for looking ahead to the general election. Obama's ability to generate the support of black voters in the general election would not be much different from that of Democratic candidates who have come before him, given historical voting patterns. But Obama's particularly strong appeal to blacks could potentially aid his campaign if he is able to mobilize black voters to higher turnout levels than has been traditionally the case -- particularly in key states.
In addition, of course, Obama's chances of winning the general election -- should he win the Democratic nomination -- would hinge on his ability to convince key segments of the white and Hispanic population in swing states to support him. And among Democrats to this point, these groups have not been Obama's strength.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,901 national Democratic voters, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 25-March 2, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points. The margin of sampling error is larger for subgroups used in this analysis.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.