Obama Leads McCain by Eight But Doubts Loom, Raising Stakes

Gun control and "social issues such as abortion and gay civil unions" are toward the bottom, outranked by just one other issue: The candidates' choice of vice-presidential running mates, rated as "extremely important" by just 15 percent.

Obama has consistent leads among registered voters who rate each of these as extremely important, with two exceptions: They're even among those who rate social issues as extremely important, and among those who rate terrorism that important, McCain leads by 51-43 percent.

Experience & Optimism

Experience, as noted, is a shortcoming for Obama; in one way of measuring it, somewhat more people see his level of experience as hurting his ability to serve effectively (49 percent) than as helping it (40 percent). Similarly more see McCain's age as hurting (43 percent) than as helping (33 percent).

Indeed Americans have compunctions overall about both candidates, somewhat more for McCain. Seventy-four percent say some things about McCain worry them; 66 percent say that about Obama. When this question was asked in 2000, concern about McCain (and about Bush) was lower than it is now; worry about Obama was about the same for Gore.

One last result cuts to one of the intangibles of politics, optimism.

It can be an appealing feature in a candidate, and at this time in 2004 Bush was seen as an optimist by more people than Kerry (though later in the summer they evened up). In this poll the tables are turned: Many more see Obama as an optimist, 79 percent, as say that about McCain, just 54 percent.

It's reflected in vote choices: Among registered voters who see McCain as a pessimist, 72 percent favor Obama; among those who see Obama as a pessimist, 76 percent favor McCain. That suggests that, even as they duke it out on policy and personal attributes in the campaign fight ahead, both these candidates will want to keep smiling.

METHODOLOGY: This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone July 10-13, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,119 adults, including an oversample of African Americans (weighted to their correct share of the national population), for a total of 209 black respondents. The results from the full survey have a 3-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA.

Click here for a PDF with charts and full questionnaire.

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