Politics

Black Men, Women Equally Likely to Support Obama

by Frank Newport and Lydia Saad

Gender gap evident among whites and Hispanics

PRINCETON, NJ -- The gender gap in Democratic preferences for Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama -- with a greater share of women than men supporting Clinton -- is evident among whites and Hispanics, but not blacks. Blacks' overwhelming support for Obama to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee is just as strong among women as it is among men.

In Gallup Poll Daily tracking interviews conducted Feb. 1-9, only a quarter of black men (25%) and black women (23%) say they support Clinton for the nomination, while about two-thirds of each group favors Obama. This is based on blacks who are Democrats or are independents who lean to the Democratic Party.

Across the same period, Gallup finds white Democrats of both sexes more likely to favor Clinton than Obama. However, among white Democratic women, the margin in favor of Clinton is 28 points, 59% vs. 31%, compared with a 10-point margin (50% vs. 40%) among white Democratic men. In short, the gender gap is significant among this group.

A gender gap of similar scope is seen among Hispanic Democrats, who, overall, have been supporting Clinton to an even higher degree than have whites. Hispanic women favor Clinton by a 37-point margin, compared with the 17-point margin seen among Hispanic men.

Blacks as Favorable Toward Clinton as Obama

The Gallup Poll Daily tracking survey does not measure favorability toward the candidates, but according to two USA Today/Gallup polls from January through early February, blacks' preference for Obama is not necessarily a rejection of Clinton. Her favorability scores among black Democrats are about as high as Obama's.

Thus, it appears that blacks' uniformly high support for Obama is not because of any major contrast in perceptions of Obama versus Clinton, but because of the greater appeal of his candidacy (perhaps because he could become the first black president in U.S. history).

Similarly, white Democratic women's support for Clinton is not necessarily a rejection of Obama. In fact, Clinton's favorability score among white Democratic women in these recent polls is only slightly higher than Obama's (78% vs. 71%).

Bottom Line/Implications

There are major differences in Democrats' support for Clinton versus Obama based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Blacks overwhelmingly support Obama. Hispanics and women disproportionately support Clinton. It can be hypothesized that the cross-voting pressures of gender and race on voters could be particularly strong on black women. The tug of supporting a woman for president could draw them to Clinton, while the tug of supporting a black could draw them toward Obama.

This analysis shows that a bias for supporting the female candidate may be in play with white and Hispanic Democratic women. However, whatever desire black women may have to vote for someone who could become the first woman president in U.S. history is muted by their apparently stronger desire to support Obama -- who could become the first black president in U.S. history.

Survey Methods

The Democratic trial-heat results reported here are based on an aggregate of Gallup Poll Daily tracking interviews conduced Feb. 1-9, 2008. Each night, approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, are interviewed by telephone. Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

The aggregate of the Democratic nomination trial heats includes telephone interviews with 3,820 Democrats and Democratic leaners who say they are "extremely," "very," or "somewhat" likely to vote in the 2008 Democratic primary or caucus in their state. One can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error for these results is ±2 percentage points.

Samples sizes for the race/gender and Hispanic/gender groups reported here, and the associated margins of error for sampling error alone, are as follows:

  • 197 Democratic black men: ±8 percentage points.
  • 289 Democratic black women: ±6 percentage points.
  • 1,161 Democratic white men: ±3 percentage points
  • 1,600 Democratic white women: ±3 percentage points
  • 136 Democratic Hispanic men: ±9 percentage points
  • 141 Democratic Hispanic women: ±9 percentage points

The candidate favorability ratings reported here are based on an aggregate of the Jan. 10-13, 2008, and Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 2008, USA Today/Gallup national surveys, including 4,031 national adults.

Sample sizes for the race/gender groups reported here, and the associated margins of error for sampling error alone, are as follows:

  • 98 Democratic black men: ±10 percentage points
  • 152 Democratic black women: ±8 percentage points
  • 663 Democratic white men: ±4 percentage points
  • 807 Democratic white women: ±4 percentage points

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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