It is a big question in this year’s Democratic presidential campaign: Is America ready for an African-American or female president? The voices and votes of Indiana residents on this issue could be critical, as Hoosiers may still have a hand in determining the Democratic presidential candidate.
An interesting finding framed the context for these results. It showed that when asked whether Obama could become president and whether Hoosiers are ready for an African-American president, conservative and liberal respondents reported similarly strong beliefs. In comparison, Clinton was favored primarily by Democrats or liberals and less by conservatives or those who categorized themselves as Republicans. Additionally, more Democrats or liberals felt that Hoosiers are ready for a female president than conservatives.
When asked whether they believed Obama, as an African American, could win the upcoming presidential election, 24 percent of the respondents said yes, and 54 percent said probably yes. In comparison, when asked whether they believed Clinton, as a female, could win the upcoming presidential election, 14 percent of the respondents said yes, and 46 percent said probably yes.
Indiana residents are divided in their belief about whether most Hoosiers are ready for an African-American president. Fifty-seven percent said yes, 39 percent said no and 4 percent don’t know.
On the other hand, 53 percent of respondents believe most Hoosiers are ready for a female president, compared to 44 percent who say Hoosiers are not ready and 4 percent who don’t know.
I’m not sure what any of this means in terms of Obama’s chances in Indiana. The only other poll I’ve seen on the issue had Obama up by 15%, but that was conducted in mid-February, so the numbers may have changed.
My major question about this poll is how much race and gender really play into the question of whether Barack or Hillary could win a presidential election. The generic African-American beats the generic woman 57% to 53%, but my guess is those numbers are based more the individuals running than on race or gender. If Liddy Dole were running against Obama, I can guarantee that the numbers who think that a woman could or probably could win would far surpass Obama’s.
Also, I think it bodes well for Obama in the general (assuming he is the nominee) that he seems to be liked across-the-board by liberals and conservatives while views of Hillary are more polarized. It’s not that I think Obama might win Indiana, but if he can at least make it competitive, McCain might actually have to spend some resources in the Hoosier state that might otherwise be put to use in real swing states.
But really, what I’d really like to know is why they didn’t just simply ask Democrats for whom they plan to vote. It seems that kind of polling would be more politically meaningful.