ABC & CBS Present Opposite Takes on Whether Racism Will Hurt Obama

On Sunday evening, ABC and CBS presented opposite views on whether racism by white voters will hurt Barack Obama on election day, as each network cited its own polling data. On ABC's World News Sunday, referring to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, anchor Dan Harris reported that "race does not appear to be a major factor," although he qualified that contention by pausing and adding, "right now." But on the CBS Evening News, correspondent Randall Pinkston more pessimistically referred to the "Bradley Effect," the theory that white voters sometimes lie to pollsters about their willingness to vote for a black candidate. Pinkston also found: "In a recent CBS News poll, for white voters who say race is a factor in their presidential choice, McCain leads Obama by nearly 20 points. It's a major problem for Obama with no easy solution." But it is also notable that while both reports focused on the possibility that racism by some white voters might hurt Obama, neither report examined black voters who might choose not to vote for a white candidate out of racism toward whites. (Transcripts follow)

On ABC, Harris introduced a report by John Hendren: "Politics next, and a new poll that attempts to answer one of the big questions hanging over this election: How will the racial attitudes of Americans affect the candidacy of Barack Obama? Overall, our poll found Obama leading John McCain by six percentage points. And it also found that race does not appear to be a major factor -- right now."

Hendren opened his report by observing that it was "remarkable" that, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, "among white voters, the issue of race isn't changing the race for the White House." As evidence Hendren compared the presidential matchup numbers to those of past elections when white Democrats were running: "While Republican John McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama among whites by 12 percentage points, that's roughly the same advantage for a Republican in the past eight elections."

While Hendren reported that "the poll found 3 in 10 voters admit they have some feelings of prejudice," he was upbeat in finding improvement in race relations: "The poll suggests white voters will be no more or less inclined to vote for Obama because of his race. The poll also opens a fascinating window into the state of race relations in America. A record number of whites and blacks say they have a friend of the other race. And just over half of all voters think race relations are good."

The ABC correspondent concluded on a positive note: "African-American voters are optimistic for the future -- 60 percent think Obama's candidacy, win or lose, will help race relations. ... That kind of enthusiasm could bring black voters to the polls in large numbers in November."

But the CBS Evening News took a more pessimistic view of its own poll findings, and even the ABC News/Washington Post poll. Anchor Russ Mitchell introduced Pinkston's report: "Winning over contributors is one thing. Winning the hearts and minds of voters is yet another. A Washington Post poll tonight finds that 30 percent of voters admitting to some feelings of racial prejudice. An equal percentage saw John McCain's age as an obstacle. This from a recent CBS News poll. Randall Pinkston has more on race, age and Campaign '08."

Referring to McCain's age and Obama's race, Pinkston began by observing: "As the polls show, both candidates have a lot of work to do to convince skeptical voters."

After relaying that many voters see age as an important issue, Pinkston cited a recent statement by Obama in which the Democratic candidate made a relatively rare reference to race: "Obama ... reluctantly speaks publicly about race. But at a Florida fund-raiser on Friday, he acknowledged it will be an issue in the campaign."

Audio of Obama was then played, in which Obama was referring to how he believed Republican opponents would go after him during the campaign: "He's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black?"

Pinkston then brought up the "Bradley Effect" theory that white voters often lie to pollsters about their intention to vote for a black candidate, a phenomenon named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley who narrowly lost his bid for governor in 1982 despite having a significant lead in the polls. Pinkston: "While most Americans say the nation is ready for a black President, past experience shows that white voters don't always reveal their true feelings to pollsters -- something called the 'Bradley Effect.'"

After a soundbite of George Mason University Professor Michael Fauntroy, Pinkston continued: "In a recent CBS News poll, for white voters who say race is a factor in their presidential choice, McCain leads Obama by nearly 20 points. It's a major problem for Obama with no easy solution."

Below are complete transcripts of the reports from the  Sunday June 22 World News Sunday on ABC and the CBS Evening News:

From the June 22 World News Sunday:

DAN HARRIS: Politics next, and a new poll that attempts to answer one of the big questions hanging over this election: How will the racial attitudes of Americans affect the candidacy of Barack Obama? Overall, our poll found Obama leading John McCain by six percentage points. And it also found that race does not appear to be a major factor -- right now. ABC's John Hendren has the numbers.

JOHN HENDREN: From the Capitol steps to the Hollywood hills, what is remarkable is what is not happening. With the historic candidacy of the nation's first major African-American presidential contender coming just four decades after blacks marched for the right to vote in the South, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released today concludes that, among white voters, the issue of race isn't changing the race for the White House. While Republican John McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama among whites by 12 percentage points, that's roughly the same advantage for a Republican in the past eight elections.

GARY LANGER, ABC NEWS POLLING DIRECTOR: His support among whites is about average for a Democratic presidential candidate. He'd like to do better, certainly, but race itself, in and of itself, doesn't look to be an impediment.

HENDREN: It's not that race doesn't matter. The poll found 3 in 10 voters admit they have some feelings of prejudice.

UNIDENTIFIED WHITE MAN: I think almost everybody does, you know, I think it's the way we're brought up.

UNIDENTIFIED BLACK WOMAN: I think we all do. I think, you know, it's just a matter of admitting it.

HENDREN: But in the end, the poll suggests white voters will be no more or less inclined to vote for Obama because of his race. The poll also opens a fascinating window into the state of race relations in America. A record number of whites and blacks say they have a friend of the other race. And just over half of all voters think race relations are good.

UNIDENTIFIED BLACK MAN: Well, good, because we have come a long way since segregation.

UNIDENTIFIED WHITE WOMAN: Unfortunately, in certain areas, I think it is more bad than I'd like to see it.

HENDREN: But African-American voters are optimistic for the future -- 60 percent think Obama's candidacy, win or lose, will help race relations.

UNIDENTIFIED BLACK MAN: I didn't think this would happen in my lifetime. I never thought I'd see a black man being elected, you know, for President. He hasn't got elected yet, but I think he will be.

HENDREN: That kind of enthusiasm could bring black voters to the polls in large numbers in November. John Hendren, ABC News, Washington.

From the June 22 CBS Evening News:

RUSS MITCHELL: Winning over contributors is one thing. Winning the hearts and minds of voters is yet another. A Washington Post poll tonight finds that 30 percent of voters admitting to some feelings of racial prejudice. An equal percentage saw John McCain's age as an obstacle. This from a recent CBS News poll. Randall Pinkston has more on race, age and Campaign '08.

RANDALL PINKSTON: Like the Democratic party primary, the November election gives American voters another historic choice -- electing the first African-American President in Barack Obama, or the oldest first-term President in John McCain. Age and race. As the polls show, both candidates have a lot of work to do to convince skeptical voters. The 71-year-old McCain uses humor to diffuse the age issue.

JOHN MCCAIN, FROM SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next President? Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

PINKSTON: But pollsters say the reality is that age is no laughing matter for voters.

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: You get a very large percentage, almost 50 percent, saying that's too old to be President.

PINKSTON: Obama, son of an African father and a white American mother, reluctantly speaks publicly about race. But at a Florida fund-raiser on Friday, he acknowledged it will be an issue in the campaign.

BARACK OBAMA: He's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black?

PINKSTON: While most Americans say the nation is ready for a black President, past experience shows that white voters don't always reveal their true feelings to pollsters -- something called the Bradley Effect.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL FAUNTROY, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: The Bradley Effect is named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who, in his California gubernatorial run, was leading by substantial numbers in the polls going into the weekend before the race and lost.

PINKSTON: In a recent CBS News poll, for white voters who say race is a factor in their presidential choice, McCain leads Obama by nearly 20 points. It's a major problem for Obama with no easy solution.

FAUNTROY: He cannot be seen as bringing race into the discussion at all points, but on the other hand, if he continues to ignore it, I think he has a problem.

PINKSTON: Whatever bias may exist in the polling booth, analysts say the race for both candidates comes down to turning out their base and which man can pick up the largest block of independent voters. Randall Pinkston, CBS News, New York.