WJTV Defends Web Poll Focusing on Obama's Race | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

WJTV Defends Web Poll Focusing on Obama's Race

Local Democrats are angry that WJTV focused on Barack Obama's race in a Web poll, but not John McCain's.

Local Democrats are angry that WJTV focused on Barack Obama's race in a Web poll, but not John McCain's. Photo by Kenya Hudson

Two polls on the Web site of Jackson CBS affiliate WJTV reveal an inordinate focus on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's race. The first poll deals with Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. It asks respondents to describe themselves as voting for or against "the McCain-Palin ticket" because of one of three issues: "their positions on issues," their Republican affiliation or Palin herself.

While dealing with Sen. Obama, the Democratic nominee, the second poll does not completely mirror the first. Respondents can describe themselves as voting for or against Obama for his stance on issues or his party affiliation. The response choices do not mention Obama's running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, however. Alarming to some Jacksonians, however, the second poll allows respondents to describe themselves as voting for or against Obama "because he is black." The McCain-Palin poll makes no mention of the candidates' race.

Richard Russell, news director for WJTV, defended the poll, explaining that the two polls were meant to highlight the historic nature of Gov. Palin's and Sen. Obama's candidacies. "We were asking whether race plays an issue in your vote on the one question. And we were asking whether gender played a reason in the other," Russell said.

Russell developed the poll, with guidance from the station's executives, for use in two upcoming specials on Mississippi politics and the Sept. 26 presidential debate in Oxford. One story airing will focus on a group of Jackson State University students who plan to vote for Obama "strictly because of his race," Russell said.

"We turned around and asked them the same question: 'What would you say to people who would vote for John McCain just because he's white or for Sarah Palin just because she's female?' and they were offended. They will vote for Barack Obama because he is black, but they are offended if somebody else would vote for John McCain because he's white or for Sarah Palin because she's a female."

Lavaree Jones, of the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee, took offense to the poll, though, going as far as writing to Professor Walter E. Williams of George Mason University, who is on the board of WJTV and is African American: "I am writing to protest a poll currently posted on the web page for WJTV in Jackson MS. As a member of the Democratic Party and an African American, I find the poll offensive and not worthy of fine people whom I know personally who work for WJTV. We have requested that this poll be taken down and it still remains on the site. The general manager is not taking phone calls."

In a return e-mail, distributed widely by Jones to a Democratic listserv, Williams responded: "Lighten up a bit. It's a nonsense poll. Spouting nonsense is one of our rights. Cheers."

Jones, in another e-mail to the listserv, said of Williams' response: "I think he was disrespectful to himself; particularly given the fact that he is African American himself."

She then sent a return e-mail to him, stating in part: "It wasn't nonsense, Mr. Williams. It is a racist attack against Barack Obama. Why do you think Biden (sic) name was omitted? If your station were doing fair and balanced reporting they would also report on whites who support Obama. There are many and the story in conjunction with the debate at Ole Miss this weekend would be more newsworthy. Shame on all of you. I am disappointed in you as a member of the board of governance for your glib response to our concern."

Russell, too, downplayed the poll's significance in an interview with the Jackson Free Press.

"There's not an agenda here. There's just something to spur conversation," he said. "And when the first African American candidate is going to be in a debate almost 46 years to the date that the University was forced to integrate, I don't think you can say that race is not an issue in this election."

Russell said that together, the two polls have received more than 2,000 responses so far. As of this writing, 4 percent of respondents said that they were voting for Obama because he is black. Another 5 percent were voting against Obama for his race, while 50 percent were voting for him because of his positions on issues.

In her e-mail to Williams, Jones referred to WJTV's planned story about JSU students voting for Obama because he's black. "Apparently," she added, "it was skewed in order to get information to support a story that WJTV wanted to do anyway. ... We should want to know IF they went to Ole Miss would they not find many white students who they could do a story on who would say they are voting for John McCain because he is NOT black."

Verbatim from WJTV site:

Web Poll 1
Which statement best describes your vote for President?
I'm voting for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket because of Palin
I'm voting against the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket because of Palin
I'm voting for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket because of their positions on issues
I'm voting against the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket because of their positions on issues
I'm voting for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket because they are Republicans
I'm voting against the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket because they are Republicans

Web Poll 2
Which statement best describes your vote for President?
I'm voting for Barack Obama because he is black
I'm voting against Barack Obama because he is black
I'm voting for Barack Obama because of his position on issues
I'm voting against Barack Obama because of his position on issues
I'm voting for Barack Obama because he is a Democrat
I'm voting against Barack Obama because he is a Democrat

Previous Comments

ID
138080
Comment

I double-dog-dare WJTV to do a poll asking: "I'm voting for John McCain because he is white."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-09-24T12:35:11-06:00
ID
138118
Comment

Their own "poll" (I use the term loosely) begs the question why, if you have more people who are voting against Obama because he is black, why are you focusing on African American students at JSU who have never had a black president who are voting in the hopes of seeing the first one instead of focusing on some white students at Ole Miss who are probably in that 5% who are voting AGAINST him because of his race in the hopes of NEVER seeing that first? WJTV's attitude is equating black people's hope as being the same as white racism.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-09-24T15:31:47-06:00
ID
138231
Comment

They actually added the: "I'm voting for John McCain because he is white."

Author
Puck
Date
2008-09-25T15:59:23-06:00
ID
138235
Comment

How delicious!?! They really did. LMAO. I think it's funny, but I also rather admire them for doing it because they're admitting an error and making it right. Kind of. Sort of. Here are the two new ones, below the ones I posted above that are still there (posting because they will eventually take these down): Web Poll 3 Which statement best describes your vote for President? I’m voting for the Barak Obama-Joseph Biden ticket because of Biden I’m voting against the Barak Obama-Joseph Biden ticket because of Biden I’m voting for the Barak Obama-Joseph Biden ticket because of their positions on issues I’m voting against the Barak Obama-Joseph Biden ticket because of their positions on issues I’m voting for the Barak Obama-Joseph Biden ticket because they are Democrats I’m voting against the Barak Obama-Joseph Biden ticket because they are Democrats Web Poll 4 Which statement best describes your vote for President? I’m voting for John McCain because he is white I’m voting against John McCain because he is white I’m voting for John McCain because of his position on issues I’m voting against John McCain because of his position on issues I’m voting for John McCain because he is a Republican I’m voting against John McCain because he is a Republican

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-09-25T17:15:23-06:00
ID
138236
Comment

BTW, right now here are the responses on the two race ones; intriguingly the one "race" question that is drawing significant response is 14 percent voting for McCain because he is white. Told them that was the relevant question. _______ I’m voting for John McCain because he is white 14% (12) I’m voting against John McCain because he is white 0% (0) I’m voting for John McCain because of his position on issues 35% (30) I’m voting against John McCain because of his position on issues 36% (31) I’m voting for John McCain because he is a Republican 8% (7) I’m voting against John McCain because he is a Republican 6% (5) _______ I’m voting for Barack Obama because he is black 4% (82) I’m voting against Barack Obama because he is black 5% (108) I’m voting for Barack Obama because of his position on issues 50% (1070) I’m voting against Barack Obama because of his position on issues 33% (709) I’m voting for Barack Obama because he is a Democrat 5% (107) I’m voting against Barack Obama because he is a Democrat 3% (74)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-09-25T17:18:50-06:00
ID
138237
Comment

Looking at these numbers (which don't mean squat, admittedly), it would seem that whites are the ones more into identity voting. It's also intriguing, if meaningless, to note that Obama is winning the race, based on his position on issues. Will that be the lead of the story they do? This has turned out to be quite the amusing exercise.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-09-25T17:21:40-06:00
ID
138250
Comment

Every honest person familiar with the history of this country could not have seriously thought that the salient factor in this election was black people not being willing to vote for a non-black person. The WJTV idiot executives are clearly trying to sterotype young black people with leading questions. Richard Russell claims that JSU students are voting for Obama "strictly" (implying for no other reason) because he is black. That is absolutely absurd. WE are not the ones with THAT history. WE have always voted for white people and WE recently voted in Tennessee in favor of a progressive Jewish candidate who defeated a neo-con Trojan horse African American female candidate in a district that is 65% African American. We DO NOT have the history of judging STRICTLY on race alone. That is the history of people like Mr. Russell and the management team at WJTV.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-09-26T08:05:46-06:00

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