New York: Americans are sharply divided on racial lines heading into the first presidential election in which an African-American would be the major party nominee, showed a new poll.

Senator Barack Obama, who is attempting to script history by being the first African-American President, leads his Republican rival John McCain among all registered voters by 45 per cent to 39 per cent. However, in a sign of how racially polarised voters are, Mr. Obama draws support from 89 per cent of African-Americans, compared with two per cent for Mr. McCain, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Among white Americans, Mr. Obama has 37 per cent of the vote, compared with 46 per cent for Mr. McCain, said the poll, reflecting the race relations in the country. In a finding that would require Mr. Obama to make a major effort to win white voters, more than 80 per cent of black voters had favourable opinion of Mr. Obama while only 30 per cent whites had the same feelings for him.

Nearly 60 per cent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, compared with 34 per cent of whites. — PTI