Close Race: McCain Stays in Range Amid Challenges for Obama

In another result, fairly few Americans, 17 percent, say they think that if elected Obama would do too much in representing the interests of African-Americans, and fewer, 9 percent called this a "big concern." By contrast, far more, 40 percent think McCain would do too much in representing the interests of large business corporations, a big concern to 31 percent.

This poll includes a closer look at racial attitudes in the presidential contest that'll be reported later this week.

Change vs. Experience

Among additional factors, there's progress for Obama in his theme of "change," with Americans by 50-43 percent citing "new ideas and a new direction" above "experience and strong leadership" as important in their choice for president; that's a new high for "new direction," up 7 points in the past month.

Obama wins eight in 10 of those new direction voters; McCain, however, has markedly improved among voters more focused on experience. He now wins support from 81 percent in this group, up from 68 percent last month and similar levels in March and April.

There are similar countervailing trends on the subject of ideology. More Americans say Obama is "just about right" on the liberal-to-conservative ideological scale, 52 percent, than say McCain is about right, 40 percent; that's because about two in 10 see McCain as too liberal on top of the third who call him too conservative.

At the same time, the country's basic ideological posture helps McCain: Thirty-three percent of Americans think of themselves as conservatives, more than half again as many as the 21 percent who are liberals. Obama leads broadly among liberals and moderates alike, but conservatives push McCain back into the match.

Accompanying those ideological divisions, Americans narrowly, by 50-45 percent, say they favor smaller government with fewer services over larger government with more services – down from the bigger "small government" advantages of years past, but another help to McCain. Small-government Americans favor him by a broad 58-31 percent; those who prefer larger government are for Obama by 65-28 percent.

Among other groups, Obama's winning 90 percent support from blacks (customary for a Democrat) and seven in 10 Hispanics. Among whites, socioeconomic status bears watching; McCain is doing better among working-class whites, but Obama's mitigated that change by improving among high-income whites, similar to the Obama-Clinton trends in the Democratic primaries.

The Clinton Factor

On Clinton, there's been an increase, to 46 percent, in the number of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who'd like Obama to pick her for vice president. That's especially so among those who supported Clinton for the nomination; 67 percent would like her for V.P., compared with 32 percent of Obama's backers in the primary campaign.

Yet having Clinton on the ticket currently looks unlikely to make much difference; as many Americans say they'd be less likely to vote Democratic with Clinton on the ticket as more likely. That's a slight shift from May, when it was a slight (7-point) positive for the Democrats.

More broadly, while it didn't do much for Obama, leaving the race looks to have worked well for Clinton's popularity; her favorability rating is up by 10 points from April.

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