Pew Poll Shows McCain, Obama Making Gains

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center shows John McCain making double-digit gains with various voting groups. And on the Democratic side, the poll shows that Barack Obama is chipping away at Hillary Clinton's base, with only a slim margin now separating the two senators. Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press goes over the numbers.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center shows John McCain making double-digit gains with various voting groups. And on the Democratic side the polls show that Barack Obama is chipping away at Hillary Clinton's base with only a slim margin now separating the two senators. Andrew Kohut is here from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to go over the numbers. Welcome.

Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (Pew Research): Happy to be here.

SEABROOK: Now, let's talk about John McCain first. He's pulled way ahead. Who is he winning with?

Mr. KOHUT: He's winning mostly among moderates, but he's also made some gains among conservatives. Compared to two weeks ago, he now has a plurality of the conservative Republican vote, so it's not just the Moderate Republicans who are rallying to him. I mean, we describe his support as soaring. He's now more than 20 points ahead of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

SEABROOK: So it sounds like he picked up all those Giuliani votes.

Mr. KOHUT: He did because his support went from 29 to 42 with Giuliani dropping out of the race and Romney and Huckabee more or less stayed where they were. And that's not unreasonable, given the fact that he and Giuliani were dividing moderate Republicans.

SEABROOK: What does that mean for Mitt Romney? Is he losing those people or it sounds like maybe he's just staying steady?

Mr. KOHUT: He's staying steady. He hasn't had them. He hasn't had a convincing plurality or margin among Conservative Republicans or regular Republicans who are his base. And he's made no gains among the moderates, no gains among the Independents who were likely vote in the Republican primary.

SEABROOK: Turning to the Democrats, your data show Obama has made significant inroads with white voters.

Mr. KOHUT: That's right. He's made a nine point gain among white voters, a 12-point gain among White men. Overall we see the Hillary Clinton margin over Barack Obama slipping from plus 15 two weeks ago to just plus eight now. She still has a significant lead in this poll. In other polls conducted at the same time, the race is even closer. So there's a fair amount of instability in the polling about the Democratic race.

SEABROOK: So what does that say to you that the polls are so unstable here?

Mr. KOHUT: Well, it may mean, in fact, that there's a lot of conflicted opinions. And one of the interesting things about our poll, which is very uncharacteristic of an opinion survey, the undecideds went up. They went from six percent two weeks ago to 15 percent currently.

SEABROOK: Wow.

Mr. KOHUT: I think reflecting the fact that Kucinich and Edwards dropped out of the race. Now, most of that support seems to have gone to Obama, but clearly there are some people who had been backing Edwards or perhaps Kucinich who don't know what to do. One of the interesting things about this poll is it doesn't show that the Democrats are getting down on the candidates as a consequence of the tough campaign.

SEABROOK: In other words, Obama supporters still think Clinton is a good candidate, Hillary Clinton supporters think Obama's a good candidate.

Mr. KOHUT: Precisely. And Democrats are so much more happy about their choices.

SEABROOK: I love this. I love this part of the poll. It's about voter happiness. What does this mean?

Mr. KOHUT: Well, we've been asking for a long time now, how do you feel about the candidates? And 80 percent of the Democrats say they rate their candidates as excellent or good. When we asked the same question of the Republicans, only 60 percent do so. The Democrats are more energized, the Republicans are kind of in a funk.

SEABROOK: Andrew Kohut is Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington, D.C. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. KOHUT: You're welcome.

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