Clinton's advantages in national polling, which basically evaporated in the new poll, relied on overwhelming support among women. Now, a week and a half before the South Carolina primary, the new poll finds a gap emerging between white women and black women.
It's a divide that may prove critical: African Americans made up nearly half of the Palmetto state's Democratic primary voters in 2004; black women made up 29 percent.
A month ago both white and black women favored Clinton by wide margins, but there's been a big shift. While white women continue to favor Clinton (though by a diminished margin), black women have jumped to Obama, now preferring the Illinois senator by 24 percentage points.
Notably, the change is not a broad indictment of Clinton, but an improved outlook on Obama.
Ninety percent of black women view Clinton favorably, the same as for Obama. But some of the shine is off: 57 percent have "strongly" positive views about Clinton, down from 72 percent in early November.
Black women's greater support for Obama may also hinge on an enthusiasm gap. While black women and white women are about equally likely to say they are more enthusiastic about Clinton's candidacy because of the historic possibility it offers (her being first female president), black women are twice as likely as white women to be so inspired by Obama's shot at being the nation's first African American president.
Here are the crosstabs among these key groups:
|Primary vote among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents:|
|All likely voters||42||37||11|
The Post-ABC national poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 9-12 among a random national sample of 1,130, including additional interviews with randomly-selected African Americans for a total of 202 black respondents. The margin of sampling error for the full poll is plus or minus three percentage points, it is plus or minus 10 points for black women and plus or minus seven points for white women. The poll's sample of black men was too small to report.