The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004--about 2.5 percentage points.
Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents--voters Obama can't win the White House without--agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.
In short, the political campaign to transform Mr. Obama into a Muslim is succeeding. The real loser as that happens isn’t just Mr. Obama, but our entire political process.
A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr. Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 percent in June and 10 percent in March.
More ominously, a rising share—now 16 percent—say they aren’t sure about his religion because they’ve heard “different things” about it.
What's really interesting is the second article of the pair. The 2008 election is one of the most publicized events ever in history. In the Internet age, we have more information available than ever in history. And yet, because McCain's surrogates (Fox News, et al.) are spreading lies, the number of people who think Obama is a Muslim is 13% and increasing.
Of course, McCain is aiding this effort by questioning Obama's patriotism--i.e., saying he'd rather win the election than win the war. In other words, by implying he's a Muslim or a Jeremiah Wright-style America basher. In other words, by reminding people he's black.
If propaganda can convince this many people that Obama isn't a Christian, no wonder people think Indians wear feathers and live in tipis. Much more false information is circulating about Indians in our culture than about Obama. He has to overcome only a year or two of misinformation, while Indians have to overcome 500 years of it.
I wouldn't be surprised if someone has done psychological studies on this issue and come up with a formula. For example, if only 20% of a given set of information is false but you repeat it often enough, people will believe it. Even when you confront them with the 80% of the information that's true. I'd say something like that is happening with Obama and with Indians.
For more on the subject, see Why Education Is Difficult and Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.