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Poll: Illinois Residents Say Obama Cares More About Poor Blacks

New poll shows that Illinois residents think that Obama has significantly more concern for black families in poverty than poor American families in general.

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October 23, 2008 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University's Victoria DeFrancesco Soto is among leading election specialists who contributed questions for the latest inaugural Big Ten Battleground Poll, released today, Thursday, Oct. 23, showing that Barack Obama holds significant leads over John McCain in eight crucial Midwest states.
"Though Obama has run a color-blind campaign, the electorate is not color blind," said DeFrancesco Soto, an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern who specializes in campaigns, elections and group identities.

The poll shows that Illinois residents think that Obama has significantly more concern for black families in poverty than poor American families in general.

"This doesn't mean the electorate will hold race against Obama," DeFrancesco Soto said. "But the Illinois findings do show that even in a decidedly blue state -- in which Obama is highly favored -- people believe that he will favor his own ingroup."

(For more on the poll and a list of poll contacts at each of the participating universities, go to www.bigtenpoll.org.)

That race finding is based on questions designed to get at whether participants perceive that either of the candidates favor one racial group over another.

DeFrancesco Soto's questions were directed at the Illinois sample of the poll. The questions reflect her scholarship on how people negotiate group identities of race, partisanship and gender in evaluating political candidates.

Illinois residents also were asked whether the candidate's party or gender was more important in influencing their presidential choices. Thirty-six percent of Illinois poll participants chose party; 6.3 percent chose gender and 33.5 percent said gender and party were equally important.

Illinois residents also were asked whether race and ethnicity or party was more important in influencing their presidential decision. In the Illinois sample, 47.6 percent chose party; 4.1 percent, race or ethnicity; 22.1 percent, both; and 26.1 percent didn't know.

The individual surveys of between 562 and 586 randomly selected registered voters and those likely to register to vote before the election in each of the states were conducted by phone with live interviewers from Oct. 19-22. The surveys were co-directed by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientists Charles Franklin and Ken Goldstein with the cooperation of colleagues from participating Big Ten universities.

The polls each have a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. The states included in the poll were Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, home to the 11 universities in the Big Ten conference.

Those states were key battlegrounds in the 2004 election, and last month the Big Ten Battleground Poll showed a tight race in all of those states but Illinois, which Obama represents in the U.S. Senate. The first poll was taken just as the U.S. financial crisis first intensified and before the massive decline in the stock market, when McCain was enjoying his highest poll numbers of the campaign in the Big Ten and nationally.

Big Ten Battleground Poll head-to-head results for individual states:

Illinois - Obama 61 percent, McCain 32 percent, N=572
Indiana - Obama 51percent, McCain 41percent, N=586
Iowa - Obama 52 percent, McCain 39 percent, N=586
Ohio - Obama 53 percent, McCain 41 percent, N=564
Michigan - Obama 58 percent, McCain 36 percent, N=562
Minnesota - Obama 57 percent, McCain 38 percent, N=583
Pennsylvania - Obama 52 percent, McCain 41 percent, N=566
Wisconsin - Obama 53 percent, McCain 40 percent, N=584

The results of this rare regional poll - a partnership involving eight Big Ten universities - will be featured during a 90-minute show called Big Ten Battleground: Campaign 2008, which airs at 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. EDT) today (Oct. 23) on the Big Ten Network.
Topics: Research