How Voters See McCain and Obama

You may have seen headlines yesterday about a poll done by the Associated Press and Yahoo, in which respondents were asked to describe Barack Obama and John McCain in a single word. The word most chosen for McCain was “old” (19%), while the word most used for Obama was “change” (20%). In all of the accounts I saw, that result was spun in Obama’s favor, as evidence of the deep PR hole that McCain needs to climb out of to be elected.

If you read the rest of the story, however, the implications are quite different. Other words used to describe McCain were “military service” (9%), “record, qualifications” (8%), “strength” (7%), “Iraq, terrorism” (6%), “honest” (5%), “moral/good” (4%). Obama, on the other hand, was described by respondents as “lack of experience” (13%), “dishonest” (9%), “liberal” (6%), “young” (6%), “not likable” (5%), “Muslim” (3%). If you aggregate positive and negative characterizations, McCain comes out 39%/42%; Obama scores exactly the same. This assumes that “race” is a positive for Obama, while “Republican” is a negative for McCain.

If you look at the actual poll results, the results are more interesting still. President Bush has a 34% approval rating; that’s a familiar number. But Nancy Pelosi scores 24%. Among Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton scores 47% positive/49% negative, Barack Obama 49%/44%, and John McCain 50/40. Bill Clinton is conventionally described as a popular ex-President, but his numbers are 49%/48%. The Presidential race polls as a dead heat.

The tie-breaker is the price of gasoline. Of all issues, it is rated highest by respondents, with 66% saying it is “extremely important.” If John McCain quits paying lip service to the global warming myth and runs as the candidate who wants to expand our access to energy, he will win rather easily in November.

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