The results in Saturday's Democratic primary in South Carolina offer important evidence -- if not yet answers -- to three big questions in this campaign: Can Barack Obama solidify all segments of the black vote behind him? Can he be competitive among white voters, especially in the South? And can we trust pre-election polls in races that involve Obama?
There was no hint of any class division regarding Barack Obama among the South Carolina black electorate. He won by similar, overwhelming margins in every demographic segment. Old, young, male, female, well educated, poorly educated, affluent, struggling -- Obama got 70%-80% of the black vote across the board. Clinton took about one-in-five black votes (19%). Edwards had virtually no support among African Americans.
Black voters acknowledged the polarizing nature of the campaign. Nearly half said both candidates attacked each other unfairly. Even among Obama's black voters, nearly half said he attacked unfairly -- but 72% of his supporters said Clinton did so. Three-fourths of Clinton's black voters said Obama attacked her unfairly, but an identical number of them agreed that Clinton behaved the same way.
Most African American voters (83%) said they thought the country was ready to elect a black president, but just 56% said the country was "definitely ready." Somewhat fewer (70%) said the country is ready for a female president -- and just 31% said the country was definitely ready.
Read the full analysis The South Carolina Democratic Primary in Black and White on the Pew Research Center Web site.