Allegiance runs deep among Democrats in 2008 war of demographics
The Democratic presidential contest is turning into a war between die-hards, pitting older white women and Hispanics for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against blacks and young college-educated voters for Sen. Barack Obama, independent pollsters said April 30.
“This is more than just Hillary versus Obama. This is about warring demographics among different groups. Each has a sense of historical destiny,” said independent pollster John Zogby.
Mr. Zogby said older women see this election as their last chance to elect a woman, and blacks see it as their first chance to elect a black president.
Neither faction is backing down, providing fuel for Democratic Party leaders’ concerns about uniting the party for the presidential battle against Republicans this fall.
A growing number of polls show a large percentage of their supporters, most between 20 percent and 30 percent and in some cases higher, saying they will never switch. Many are threatening to vote for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, if their Democratic choice loses the nomination.
Frank Newport, the Gallup Poll’s editor in chief, said polling showed about 30 percent of Clinton Democrats saying “they would vote for McCain rather than Obama if that was the race in November. About 23 percent of Obama voters said they would vote for McCain rather than Clinton if that was the race this fall.”
“That’s pretty consistent with what we found last time and what other polls have found. But it does give us an indication of the animosity going on right now between the supporters of the two candidates,” Mr. Newport said.
A sharper demographic profile emerged last week in an Associated Press-Yahoo poll, which has tracked about 2,000 voters since last fall. It showed that the Obama supporters holding negative views of Mrs. Clinton has jumped from 35 percent in November to 44 percent. One-quarter expressed very unfavorable feelings. The number of Clinton voters who do not like Mr. Obama also rose from 26 percent to 42 percent.
The poll found that about half of the white backers of the senator from Illinois who had college degrees held an unfavorable view of Mrs. Clinton but that fewer of his black supporters disliked the senator from New York. Still, those who had negative feelings about her grew by 33 percent over this period.
Mr. Obama was similarly disliked by almost half of Mrs. Clinton’s white supporters who had only a high school education, with four out of 10 white women expressing a negative view of him.
“This is at a point now where these are open sores. These are high-intensity groups and higher numbers than usual for both sides who say they will not switch, and higher numbers for Hillary than for Obama who will not switch,” Mr. Zogby said.
But spokesmen for both candidates said heir party would unite behind the eventual nominee.
“Despite the fact that we are in a spirited contest for the Democratic nomination, we remain confident that we will be united in the fall,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
“We expect Senator Clinton to be the nominee, but no matter who the nominee is, all Democrats will come together in the general election,” said Clinton spokesman Jay Carson.
Still, Gallup said in an analysis it is worth noting that in the past four presidential elections “10 percent or less of Republicans and Democrats typically vote for the other party’s presidential candidate.”
In a tight general election race, “that could make a difference if it’s in the right states,” Mr. Newport said.
Betsy Anton (left) and Faye Walker wait to shake hands with Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama in Indianapolis.