Barack Obama’s problem winning votes from working-class whites is showing no sign of going away, and their impression of him is getting worse.
Those are ominous signals as he hopes for strong performances in the coming week in Indiana and North Carolina primaries that would derail the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Those contests come as his candidacy has been rocked by renewed attention to his volatile former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and by his defeat in last month’s Pennsylvania primary.
In an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll in April, 53 percent of whites who have not completed college viewed Obama unfavorably, up a dozen percentage points from November. During that period, the numbers viewing Clinton and Republican candidate John McCain negatively have stayed about even.
The April poll – conducted before the Pennsylvania contest – also showed an overwhelming preference for Clinton over Obama among working-class whites. They favored her over him by 39 percentage points, compared to a 10-point Obama lead among white college graduates. Obama also did worse than Clinton among those less-educated voters when matched up against Republican candidate John McCain.
“It’s the stuff about his preacher … and the thing he said about Pennsylvania towns, how they turn to religion,” Keith Wolfe, 41, a supermarket food stocker from Parkville, Md., said in a follow-up interview. “I don’t think he’d be a really good leader.”
Just before the Pennsylvania primary, Obama said many small-town residents are bitter about their lives and turn for solace to religion and guns.
Recent voting patterns underscore Obama’s continued poor performance with these voters, who are often pivotal in general election swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.