Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CNN-TV: "Race in this Race"

by Christina London

It’s the elephant in the room: the issue of race in the presidential election. Personally, I thought race would be a bigger issue in the media than it has been, especially for the 24-hour cable channels. However, I’ve been following CNN’s election coverage for more than a month now and haven’t seen much of a focus on race...until last weekend.

Last Sunday, CNN devoted several prime time slots to the issue of race. However, it was the race of the voters- not the candidates- that was the topic of discussion. Anchor Don Lemon did a live phone interview with radio host James Harris: an African-American man who supports John McCain. After Harris was made famous for a comment at a McCain rally, he said the hate mail started pouring in.

WWatch as Harris addresses McCain at a rally in Wisconsin.

I need to applaud Don Lemon, who is also
African-American, for how he handled the interview. He asked Harris the question, “What do you say to people who say, ‘What have Republicans done for black people?’” This caused Harris to erupt in an angry outburst, yelling, “Well, what have Democrats done for black people?!” Lemon kept his cool and simply responded that he would have to refer Harris’s question to a CNN political analyst. I was impressed by Lemon’s ability to keep his cool during a tense situation on live television (even if he had wanted to add his two cents.)

So how big of a role will race actually play in the election? A CNN poll from last month suggests that it could be pretty substantial. Here are the findings:

  • Barack Obama would receive six more percentage points of support if prejudice were not an issue.

  • A small group of Democrats polled (2.5%) say they may turn away from Obama because of his race.

  • Of the 8% of Democrats surveyed who are voting for McCain, half say race was a factor in making their decision.

  • The poll was conducted partly online in hopes people would be most honest about their attitudes about race. Still, the article points out that it’s difficult to quantify and trust these numbers. As we discussed in class, we’ll have to wait and see if those people who “just can’t vote for a black man” vote for McCain...or just stay home on Election Day.

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