Obama not closing racial divide: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are sharply divided by race ahead of the first presidential election in which a black candidate will represent a major party, a New York Times/CBS News poll showed on Tuesday,

Presidential candidates Senator Barack Obama (L) and Senator John McCain meet onstage between back to back Republican and Democratic debates at St Anselems College in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 5, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The poll found that blacks and whites hold vastly different views of Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat who would be the first black president, and are also divided on the state of race relations in the United States, the newspaper reported.

In the survey, 83 percent of blacks had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 31 percent of white voters.

Obama will face John McCain, a white Republican senator from Arizona, in the November 4 presidential election.

On the status of race relations, 59 percent of black respondents thought they were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites who thought the same way.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,796 adults showed that 39 percent of blacks said there had been no real progress in recent years in getting rid of racial discrimination. Only 17 percent of whites said the same thing.

Twenty-seven percent of whites said too much had been made of problems facing black people, while half of blacks said not enough had been made of racial barriers faced by black people.

The poll was conducted July 7-14 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found Obama leading McCain by 50 percent to 42 percent among registered voters nationwide. The poll also had Obama with a 19-point lead over McCain on the economy, the issue topping the list of voter concerns.

The poll of 1,119 adults and 971 registered voters was conducted July 10 through 13. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney