How We Decide

In numbers and words, TIME explores how race is--or isn't--shaping the election and how voters are making up their minds

Greg Miller for TIME

Here's the question that has obsessed more than a few political experts since the beginning of the presidential campaign: Why does Barack Obama consistently poll behind the generic Democrat in the 2008 race? What that means in regular speech is that when voters are asked whether they would prefer a Democrat or a Republican, the generic Democrat has scored as many as five points higher than Senator Obama does.

This question is often asked in a whisper. Why? Because so many people believe the answer is an ugly one: bias, prejudice, racism--take your pick. Some attribute it to something less distasteful:...

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