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The Impact of Wright

Public polling has revealed several potentially troubling trends for Barack Obama's campaign over the last few days, from the evaporation of his lead over Hillary Clinton in Gallup's daily tracking poll to a resurgent Clinton outperforming Obama against John McCain in the Associated Press-Ipsos poll, but perhaps none more so than what Newsweek's poll found among the Senator's own partisans.

The poll found the starkest evidence yet that Sen. Barack Obama's run for the presidency has been negatively impacted by the controversy surrounding his outspoken former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who in recent days made his first public appearances since news of his fiery sermons broke last month.

More than three in 10 Democrats reported feeling less favorable towards Obama as a result of what they had heard about Wright, double the percentage who said so in a CBS News poll in March.

And the Newsweek poll found Wright is not the only drag on Obama's popularity among Democrats. Three in 10 view Obama less favorably as a result of his own comments about "bitter" small town residents clinging to guns and religion, and nearly a quarter report being turned off by Obama's answers to questions about why he chooses not to wear an American flag lapel-pin.

On the plus side for the Illinois senator, 41 percent of Democrats said they felt more favorable as a result of the speech Obama gave on race in America in the wake of the uproar over Rev. Wright's sermons.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll from earlier in the month showed Democratic reaction to Wright to be more muted. Three-quarters of Democrats said Obama had done enough or more than enough to distance himself from his former pastor's comments, and just 15 percent were "very concerned" about how Republicans might use Wright's remarks against Obama in a general election campaign.

Now, after a Pennsylvania loss that highlighted Obama's difficulties making inroads into Clinton's white working-class base, the combined impact of these controversies appears to be building up quickly: The Newsweek poll showed the double-digit lead Obama held over Clinton a week ago had been reduced to seven points.

Q: We're interested in how some different things might have influenced your opinion of Barack Obama. Has [item] made your opinion of Obama more favorable, less favorable, or has it not made much difference?

% saying each item has made their
  opinion of Barack Obama "less favorable"
                                   All   Dem   Ind   Rep
Remarks on "bitter" small-towners   42    31    41    57
Seen/heard about Jeremiah Wright    41    31    40    57
Answers about flag pin              29    23    27    39
Seen/heard about Michelle Obama     19    14    19    28
How he has conducted his campaign   17    14    11    27
Foreign-sounding name               16    13    14    22
Speech about race in America        14     9    15    23
Time spent in Indonesia             13    10    11    21
Harvard-law education                6     5     4     8

SOURCE: Newsweek poll conducted April 24-25 among 1,203 registered voters by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Results among the 432 Democrats have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five points.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  April 29, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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