Presidential Race Close to Even: NBC/WSJ Poll

John McCain has nearly pulled even with Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race, boosted by positive reaction to his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

John McCain and Barack Obama
John McCain and Barack Obama

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Mr. McCain trailing Mr. Obama 42 percent to 45 percent among registered voters, after trailing by six percentage points in July. When voters are asked to choose between Mr. Obama and his running mate Joe Biden and the Republican ticket, Mr. Obama leads by a single percentage point, 47 percent to 46 percent.

A separate question on vice presidential running mates underscored the Palin effect. While 24 percent of voters said Mr. Obama's selection of Mr. Biden made them more likely to support the Democratic ticket, 34 percent said the same of Mrs. Palin and the Republican ticket.

The telephone survey of 860 registered voters, conducted Sept. 6-8 after the conclusion of both major party political conventions, has a margin for error of 3.3 percentage points.

The survey shows domestic issues such as the economy atop voters' list of concerns, and they give Mr. Obama an advantage on being more likable, offering hope for the future, showing compassion for average people and improving America's standing in the world.

A majority credits Mr. Obama for the ability to offer "real change", and says Mr. McCain's policies are "mostly the same" as those of President Bush—whose approval rating stands at just 34 percent in the survey.

As Mr. Obama seeks to become the first African-American president, fully 87 percent of voters say they are comfortable or enthusiastic with the idea of a black chief executive. Just 49 percent say they feel enthusiastic or comfortable about a candidate over age 70; Mr. McCain, who would be the oldest president ever sworn in to a first time, is 72.

Yet the poll shows Mr. McCain benefits from other factors. Voters credit the Arizona senator with superior experience and ability to serve as commander-in-chief. By 48 percent to 41 percent, voters describe Mr. Obama, a senator from Illinois, as the "riskier choice" for president.