The differences on attributes are sharper still. McCain leads Obama by 51 points, 70-19 percent, on experience; by 40 points in knowledge of world affairs; and by a closer 11 points on strong leadership. Notably, he prevails on experience even among liberals (55 percent say he beats Obama on this score) and by a plurality of Democrats, 48 percent.
Obama counters those three with advantages in five other areas, including more than 20-point leads on personality and temperament, empathy, bringing needed change and a vision for the future. He's got a smaller 12-point lead on personal and ethical standards.
Only 47 percent of conservatives, and 52 percent of Republicans, pick McCain as better suited in terms of his personality and temperament; McCain also gets lukewarm support from conservatives, 51 percent, as better to "bring needed change."
HURDLE – Another way of examining these is in basic acceptability – not which candidate's rated better, but who clears the hurdle. Here both face challenges. Fewer than half of Americans, 49 percent, say Obama has the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president – a clear problem for him. But fewer still, 41 percent, say McCain would do enough to bring needed change to Washington, a real shortcoming of his own.
Doubt runs highest, for both, among seniors – just 34 percent think McCain will bring needed change, and only 32 percent say Obama's experienced enough.
Six in 10 Republicans think McCain would bring change, but far fewer independents (39 percent) and Democrats (28 percent) agree. Similarly, half of conservatives say he'd bring needed change, but only 41 percent of moderates and a third of liberals agree.
Adults under 30 are twice as apt as seniors to say Obama has enough experience. By 2-1 Democrats say he's got the experience, while by roughly the same margin Republicans say not. Independents split, 46-48 percent.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 28-March 2, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,126 adults, including an oversample of African-Americans for a total of 215 black respondents (weighted back to their correct share of the national population). The results have a 3-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.