The Polls May Be Screwy But Barack Obama's Lead Is Real Because He's Strong Among White Voters

An explanation of both the polls and Obama's very real strength.

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OK, Rob. About those screwy polls. For those among us who are polling junkies, the fellows at fivethirtyeight.com have put together a couple of primers on the science of public opinion.

Here is an explanation of the many tracking polls, which explains how the various polling organizations get their samples and other tricks of the trade.

And this post goes over some of the same territory but with a persuasive analysis that the polls showing Barack Obama with a sizable lead are real.

Here's my favorite factoid, which is based on the reality that, despite the growing multicultural nature of American society, white folks still elect our presidents.

According to ace political demographer Ruy Teixeira, the Democrats don't have to win the white vote, but they do need to keep their losses, especially among white married people who really like to vote, in single digits.

As you can see from today's New York Times poll, the Democrats are doing that this year. The survey found Obama and John McCain tied 46 to 46 percent among white men, a group that John Kerry lost to George Bush, 38 to 61 percent, four years ago. And Obama is actually leading among white women, 45 to 42. (They went for Bush 55 to 44 in 2004).

Obama is carrying suburbanites (50 to 39) and parents (49 to 38) and white Catholics (53 to 36) and white independent men (49 to 38), and white voters earning less than $50,000 a year (49 to 40)—all groups that Bush carried four years ago.

The Times poll suggests that there is some room for the race to tighten. Obama is scoring relatively well among conservatives (23 percent) and Republicans (11 percent), who may drift back to McCain between now and Election Day. If they are joined by key swing voters like white Catholics or white women, then it could get interesting once more. But right now, Obama is assembling a potent new Democratic majority.

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