At 7:09 CT this morning, Obama spokesman Bill Burton e-mailed the press with a blistering e-mail disputing a prominently displayed New York Times story this morning. Under the headline, "Poll Finds Obama’s Run Isn’t Closing Divide on Race," Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee write that Americans are "sharply divided by race" with "more than 80 percent of black voters" holding a favorable opinion of Obama compared to the"30 percent of white voters" who do,
Black voters were far more likely than whites to say that Mr. Obama cares about the needs and problems of people like them, and more likely to describe him as patriotic. Whites were more likely than blacks to say that Mr. Obama says what he thinks people want to hear, rather than what he truly believes. And about half of black voters said race relations would improve in an Obama administration, compared with 29 percent of whites.
The Obama campaign response points to "multiple and significant pieces of data that actually indicate a trend much different from that which the story suggests" and suggests that Nagourney and Thee were duped by a fallacy of inductive reasoning. For example: although Obama's favorability rating is 31% among whites, it's only a few points off McCain's -- 34%. The campaign claims that "enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy is roughly 2.5 times higher among white voters than is enthusiasm for McCain’s."
Well -- both the Times and the Obama campaign make good points. Obama's candidacy isn't racially polarizing, but race relations remain polarized. And that was, I think, the overall point of the Times article: that, at this historic moment in our history, blacks and whites still perceive the world very differently, and so far, Obama's campaign has had little measurable effect on them. By the same token, his campaign does not appear to have exacerbated tensions betwee the races.