Covering a Racially Polarized Electorate

How ethnicity is more influential the second time around for President Obama.

Early voters in Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Early voters in Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

AP Poll: 51% Express Explicit Anti-Black Attitudes

The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago,” Jon Cohen and Rosalind S. Helderman reported Thursday for the Washington Post.

“At this stage in 2008, Obama trailed Republican John McCain by seven percentage points among white voters. Even in victory, Obama ended up losing white voters by 12 percentage points, according to that year’s exit poll.

“But now, Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney by 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll. That presents a significant hurdle for the president — and suggests that he will need to achieve even larger margins of victory among women and minorities, two important parts of the Democratic base, to win reelection.”

[Sonya Ross and Jennifer Agiesta reported Saturday for the Associated Press, “Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.”]

While the implications of this poll have not been prominent in mainstream news coverage, pundits of color have been commenting on the phenomenon for some time.

Veteran journalist Les Payne wrote Friday on the Root, “. . . Alas, in this year of our Lord 2012, the Republican Party structurally is 97.9 percent non-African American, fielding only 47 blacks among the 4,411 delegates at its Tampa convention!

“With blacks constituting some 13 percent of the electorate, the GOP, win or lose, is likely to register a popular vote that is 99.5 percent non-African American. And this near lily-white party operates in a diverse republic — with a black president, who attracted 43 percent of the white vote in ’08.

“. . . Seldom, if ever, are whites queried about voting for the candidate of a predominantly white party, who is so shameless a panderer that even ranking party officials are knocked into a quandary over what exactly he believes. So the question arises: