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Good And Bad Poll News For Obama

Pew does less frequent but more exhaustive polling than most public opinion outfits. Its new poll is filled with interesting nuggets. Like the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Pew finds that Obama has weathered the Wright controversy with his popularity intact:

The new polling suggests that the Wright affair has not hurt Obama's standing, in part because his response to the controversy has been viewed positively by voters who favor him over Clinton. Obama's handling of the Wright controversy also won a favorable response from a substantial proportion of Clinton supporters and even from a third of Republican voters.

However, his unpopularity among certain segments of the party remains persistent. There's been plenty of supposition, and some anecdotal evidence, to suggest that conservative views on race have hurt Obama among older whites. The Pew poll, though, is the first I've seen to establish this relationship empirically:

[W]hile Obama's personal image is more favorable than Clinton's, certain social beliefs and attitudes among older, white, working-class Democratic voters are associated with his lower levels of support among this group.

In particular, white Democrats who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely than those who have favorable opinions of him to say that equal rights for minorities have been pushed too far; they also are more likely to disapprove of interracial dating, and are more concerned about the threat that immigrants may pose to American values. In addition, nearly a quarter of white Democrats (23%) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim.

The overall poll still shows him beating Clinton by ten points in the primary and defeating John McCain by six points in the general election. But he's going to need a substantially different Democratic coalition to do it.

--Jonathan Chait