The latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found widespread support for an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban [interracial] marriage. It also found unease about [interracial] relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one for the Democrats and an opportunity for the Republicans in the 2004 election.
The most positive feelings toward [black] people were registered among respondents under 30, and among those who knew [black] people.
[President Bush's statement in support of the ban] signals the White House's increasing confidence that it can exploit the matter in the presidential campaign, both to energize its evangelical supporters and to discredit the eventual Democratic nominee.
"We have found that the more people focus on it, the less they support it," said the Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, which strongly opposes [interracial] marriage and is working actively for a constitutional ban.
This poll and other surveys show that as the courts have extended legal rights to [blacks] this year, Americans have become increasingly uncomfortable with [interracial] relations.
Richard Waters, 71, a retired elementary school teacher in Little Valley, N.Y., and a Republican, said in a follow-up interview to the poll that he strongly supported a constitutional amendment banning [interracial] marriage.
"I think any kind of amendment that says `You shall not' will help," Mr. Waters said. "I just don't think it's right for [a black man and white woman] to go parading around in public or for [a white man and a black woman] to be doing the things they do. It's against God's law. That's right in the Bible that it's wrong."
Theresa Eaton, 49, a financial analyst in Corona, Calif., and also a Republican, agreed.
"I still believe that marriage should be between [people of the same race]," she said. "If I knew that we had a neighbor who was [black], I would not let my nieces and nephews go close by there. I don't want to accept their lifestyle. It can be acquired and it is not right."
Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican of Colorado, who introduced a constitutional amendment in the House in May, said on Friday that she had 106 co-sponsors. The companion measure in the Senate still has only a handful of supporters.
"[Black] activists have known that they're not going to get their way in the legislative arena, and they shopped around for activist judges," Ms. Musgrave said.
Jan LaRue, counsel to Concerned Women for America, a conservative religious policy organization, said her group was involved in a public education campaign on "why marriage is important and needs to be protected." She added, "We are part of a broad coalition that is using bumper stickers, newspaper ads, articles on our Web sites and assisting with amicus briefs."
Even in an age when [interracial] couples are routinely portrayed on television and constitute a prosperous demographic that advertisers have been overtly appealing to, the Times/CBS News poll found the country still sharply divided over [blacks].
"I want my children to grow up and be normal people like me and my father and my grandfather was," said Ziad Nimri, 41, a salesman and a Democrat who lives in Spokane, Wash. "I don't want my children to start getting ideas. They see it's out in the open and you see [blacks] kissing [whites] on television these days."
Mr. Nimri said he was also worried that if [blacks] were allowed to marry [whites], they would get other rights too, like tax benefits. "Because they're a minority, they're going to start actually giving them more privileges than normal people would have," he said. "Minorities always tend to get more than your average person does."