U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's race and inflammatory racial remarks made byhis former preacher negatively affect how likely voters view thecandidate, according to a new poll in Kentucky.
More than one in five likely Democratic voters surveyed said being black hurts Obama's chances of winning an election in Kentucky, compared to 4percent who said Obama's race helps him.
More than half of respondents said Obama's race isn't a factor inthe upcoming May 20 primary. But many still said the racially charged remarksby the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will play an important role as they decidewhom to support.
Among white voters, Wright's statements were important to 46 percent, compared to only 11 percent of black voters.
"Race is still the elephant in the room, and the Rev. Wright issue hits at remaining racial prejudices and fears that people here might have,"said Saundra Ardrey, head of the political science department at Western Kentucky University.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's gender is not a major factor for those surveyed. Eleven percent saw Clinton's gender as apositive, which was only slightly less than the 14 percent who viewed it as a negative. Clinton's gender didn't matter to 63 percent of thosepolled.
The telephone survey of 500 likely Democratic voters was conducted from May 7 through May 9 by Research 2000 of Olney, Md., for the Lexignton Herald-Leader and WKYT television. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Kentucky's population is only 8 percent African-American. No black candidate has ever been elected to statewide office.
"I'll be very blunt," said pollster Del Ali, president of Research 2000. "Even if there wasn't a Rev. Wright controversy, I think Obama wouldhave a tough time in Kentucky, for obvious reasons."
The fact that 56 percent of interviewed voters said Obama's race was not important could be due to something called the Bradley effect, Ardreysaid. In 1982, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who was black, was predicted to win the governor's race by a comfortable margin but lost.
"It's not socially acceptable to say things about race and gender, but in the secrecy of the voting booth, they come out," Ardrey said. "That's why polls are not accurate when it comes to true feelings on race and gender, especially race."
Read the full story at Kentucky.com.