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Voters give Obama high marks on speech -- 63% agree with his comments on race.


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Full results:


The most important part of this poll is that it called back the exact same voters who were interviewed during mid-March (before the speech), which allows us to see how evaluations of Obama changed for these voters.

Favorable opinion of Obama:

Mar 15-18

Favorable 44%

Unfavorable 28%

Mar 20th

Favorable 43%

Unfavorable 30%

The impact on Obama's favorable ratings was slight. Unfortunately, the poll did not ask about candidate preferences, so we're not sure what it's impact was on that side of the equation.

A couple of other things stand out:

Good or poor job explaining Wright relationship?

Good 71%

Poor 24%

Good or poor job talking about race?

Good 69%

Poor 20%

Agree or disagree with Obama's comments on race?

Agree 63%

Disagree 25%

Finally, the percent of people saying that Obama can unite the country slipped dramatically from February, from 67% to 52%. Unfortunately, we don't know how much of that is due specifically to the "A More Perfect Union" speech, but it is a pretty steep drop.

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The Gallup Daily tracking poll also shows Obama climbing back in the lead over Clinton.


The problem, as I've pointed out with other polls (notably the Rasmussen poll) is that daily shifts represent random error due to drawing different samples each day as well as systematic shifts due to real changes in voter's evaluations. It's hard to say based on one, two, or even three day trends whether the results are driven by systematic or random factors, so all caveats apply here.

It's clear that Obama lost a lot of ground since the 13th of March ("beware the ides of march"? :w00t: ), and that he has regained some of that ground over the past few days. It's very likely that the Wright controversy is responsible for some of this, but again how much it affected the race remains unclear.

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A few more tidbits:

Here is some sage advice about interpreting public reaction (via polls) to any political event from Mark Blumenthal at Pollster.com. The best advice, as he notes, is to simply "wait a week" before drawing conclusions:

March 21, 2008

Wait a Week

Yesterday, Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn released a polling memo highlighting "some pretty big changes" in polling numbers that suggest "a strong swing in momentum in the race to Hillary." Later in the afternoon, ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper posted some analysis by Peyton Craighill of the ABC News Polling Unit:

"Mark Penn s note is full of overblown claims based on current polling. He s cherry picking numbers from recent polls. Much of his claim of a Clinton swing is based on the latest tracking data from Gallup in which Clinton is now ahead by 7 points. If you go back two more days Obama has a 7-point lead in a separate USA Today/Gallup poll. CBS has a new poll out today that shows a close 46-43 percent Obama-Clinton race. The CBS poll also has the match ups with McCain at 48-43 percent for Obama-McCain and 46-44 percent for Clinton-McCain. We see little indication of a shift to Clinton. Of the nine polls cited in his note, five of them are not airworthy."

Tapper adds: "'Airworthy' is a term our Polling Unit uses for polls so poorly done we are discouraged from mentioning them on air." I believe Tapper left out the word "not" in that sentence. Polls considered "not airworthy" are those ABC does not mention on air, and that category includes polls conducted using an automated methodology, such as those by SurveyUSA (ABC details its standards here).

Without reopening the long debate on automated polls (a topic we've written about often), we should note that the latest round of SurveyUSA polls do generally show Obama's support worsening in general election matchups against McCain. Of course, all of those surveys were fielded last weekend (March 14-16) while the Jeremiah Wright sound-bites played endlessly on the cable news network but before Obama's speech on Tuesday. Probably the wisest advice on how to interpret poll numbers this week comes from some commentary yesterday by NBC News political director Chuck Todd:

"Don't use the polls this week to judge where Obama is and what kind of damage...is it long term or is it short term. I'd wait a week and look at the polls in a week and then we'll know how badly this [hurt Obama] because there has certainly been critical mass as far as attention has been concerned on the speech and how he is trying to pivot and move on. So if there is an uptick then we will know that what we are seeing is bottom, what we are seeing today is the worst, and if today is bottom, the Obama campaign probably thinksthey can recover."

Finally, here is an explanation of ABC's standards for their polling and which polls they deem "airworthy":


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Well. McCain has aligned himself with preachers who are known for saying insane incendiary horse #####. You know, things like '911 happened to us because of our tolerance for gays'.

I'm not an Obama guy, but like he said, when does it stop? When do we get past this race #####? If not now, when? And I mean on both sides. And even if it's not totally getting past it. When do we make another significant step? It just seems like a significant social step hasnt even happened in a while.

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me51 (3/23/2008)
Amazing, only in America with the help of the media could Obama turn this into him opening a dialogue on race issues. If Mccain had even looked at a preacher saying the same of blacks he would have no chance in **** of becoming President.

McCain DID embrace and seek out the endorsement from one pastor who blamed gays for Hurricane Katrina (Hagee) and another who blamed gays for 9/11 (Falwell). That didn't get as much press as Wright's comments have gotten even though a lot of the clips shown on FOX News and ABC were taken out of context.

If you listen to Wright's entire 9/11 sermon, you'll get an entirely different perspective on the church. I was actually quite impressed with the sermon after listening to the whole thing. I don't like any pastor injecting politics into the sermon, but that alone is hardly reason to criticize Wright. The rest of the sermon was very good.

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