Polls: Obama weathers Wright controversy

Preferences for both Democratic candidates remain largely unchanged.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
March 28, 2008 12:24AM (UTC)
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Contrary to a Fox News poll, which War Room covered last Thursday, the Rev. Wright controversy does not appear to have undermined support for Barack Obama. The new evidence comes from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey.

The Journal/NBC poll shows Hillary Clinton and Obama tied, with each having the support of 45 percent of registered Democratic voters. That's an uptick for Obama from the last Journal/NBC poll, taken two weeks ago, which had Clinton leading among Democratic voters, 47 percent to 43 percent. But the Journal notes that the change is statistically insignificant.


Clinton still leads among white Democrats, according to the Journal/NBC poll, but surprisingly her edge shrank to 8 points from 12 points in early March. As the Journal point outs: "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."

The Pew poll found that Wright's controversial sermons and Obama's speech about race and politics attracted more public attention than any other events so far in the 2008 presidential campaign. Yet, while most voters surveyed said that they were offended by Wright's comments, the controversy does not appear to have undermined support for Obama: "Obama maintains a 49 percent to 39 percent advantage over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, which is virtually unchanged from the 49 percent to 40 percent lead he held among Democrats in late February," according to Pew. "Obama and Clinton continue to enjoy slight advantages over John McCain in general election match ups among all registered voters."

In a phone call, Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal put these latest figures in perspective: "By and large, since Super Tuesday things haven't changed all that much. Preferences for Obama and Clinton remain very close, and they remain very close to what they've been for six weeks, which is sort of good news and bad news for both sides."

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton John Mccain R-ariz.