McCain Pulls Closer to Obama: NBC/WSJ Poll

Republican candidate John McCain has pulled closer to Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

John McCain and Barack Obama
John McCain and Barack Obama

The survey, conducted on the eve of the Democratic National Convention and Obama’s selection of a running mate, shows Mr. Obama with 45 percent to 42 percent for Mr. McCain. In July, Mr. Obama led 47% to 41%.

The telephone survey of 1,005 registered voters, conducted August 15-18, suggest that the boost Mr. Obama received after winning his primary battle against Hillary Clinton has receded. It also follows weeks in which Mr. McCain has aggressively promoted his support for offshore drilling at a time of high gas prices, and attacked Mr. Obama’s stances on both energy and taxes.

Mr. Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, continues to benefit from greater intensity of support. Fully 46 percent of his backers call themselves "excited" about their choice; just 12 percent of those backing Mr. McCain, a longtime senator from Arizona, call themselves excited about backing him, while 41 percent say they’re selecting "the lesser of two evils." The poll’s margin for error is 3.1 percentage points.

Three times as many respondents (37 percent) say they are bothered my Mr. McCain’s age – at 72 he would become the oldest president ever sworn in to a first term – than the fact that Mr. Obama is African-American (12 percent). But by 51 -40 percent, voters say they’ve developed more questions and concerns about Mr. Obama as they’ve learned more about him. By 51 - 37 percent, voters say Mr. Obama rather than Mr. McCain is the "riskier choice" for the Oval Office.

Mr. McCain also may be benefiting from improving attitudes about the war in Iraq. In June, 47 percent of voters called the war a top government priority, essentially matching the 46 percent who identified job creation and economic growth. Now just 30 percent call the war a top priority, substantially below the 45 percent who identify job creation and the 41 percent who point to energy and the cost of gas.