Will Wright hurt Obama's chances?

A new poll indicates Barack Obama's former pastor might damage the Obama campaign.

By Alex Koppelman
Published March 21, 2008 12:01AM (EDT)

There's some potentially bad news for Barack Obama in a new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll -- more than a third of Americans say Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has caused them to have doubts about Obama.

Respondents were asked three questions relating to Wright, Obama's former pastor: Whether they had heard about comments made by Wright, whether they felt Obama shared Wright's views and whether Wright caused them to have doubts about Obama. A large majority, 72 percent, said they'd heard about the comments. And 35 percent of respondents said Obama's relationship with Wright caused them to have doubts about Obama -- that number includes 26 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Independents.

The other question seemed a little dodgy. That one asked, "Reverend Wright has made some controversial and unpatriotic comments about America -- do you believe Barack Obama shares his views, or not?" Concerned over whether that bit of editorializing in the "and unpatriotic" part of the question would skew the results, we called Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal for his opinion. "It's not a neutral way of asking about Wright... I suppose as a pollster I would put a question mark next to 'and unpatriotic,'" Blumenthal said. However, his conclusion was that the wording of the question would likely not affect the results: "I'm not sure the answer would be different if they just dropped and unpatriotic... I suppose if you gave this to other pollsters they'd ask it different ways, but I think this is pretty straightforward. And if someone was looking for a result that was terribly embarrassing for Obama, they didn't get it here."

On that question, 24 percent of respondents said they believed Obama shares Wright's views, while 57 percent said they believe he doesn't and 19 percent said they didn't know.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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