Election 2008


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center contains both good and bad news for Senator Barack Obama, and it confirms a shift in opinion on Iraq that Senator John McCain has been counting on. The director of the Pew Research Center is here once again to talk about his findings.

Andy Kohut, welcome.

Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (Director, The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press): Happy to be here.

SIEGEL: And first on Iraq, your poll seems to show that the surge must be seen as successful and that it changes what people think about how long the U.S. should in Iraq.

Mr. KOHUT: It sure does. We saw back in the fall a growing percentage of people saying that the war effort was going well but no change in views about whether we should stay the course. But in the current survey, the public is evenly divided 47 percent - stay the course until things are stable; 49 percent - let's get out as soon as possible. A year ago, it was only 41 percent - stay the course; 54 percent - get out as soon as possible. Opinions are changing because the public is so much more positive about the course of events in Iraq. There's cause for optimism, they think.

SIEGEL: Now, on to the Democratic race for the nomination. In your poll, now, this in line with other national polls: Barack Obama has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton.

Mr. KOHUT: He has a 49 to 40 percent lead first time nationwide in our survey. Democrats - independents who lean Democratic have been favoring him, and he has an even bigger 70 percent lead as the candidate the Democrats thinks is going to win the nomination.

SIEGEL: But, there's a weakness in Obama's support that you find in the survey. When people are asked now - Democratic voters asked now about an Obama-McCain race, there are defections from Obama to McCain.

Mr. KOHUT: Yeah, Obama only pulls the support of 81 percent of Democrats in a matchup against McCain. And when we look at who might defect, we see much higher rates along white Democrats; we see much higher rates among older voters. Obviously, these have been the constituency of Hillary Clinton and some of these may well be related to perceptions of Obama's foreign policy capabilities among the public at large but even among Democrats. Thirty-one percent of the Democrats who say that they favored keeping troops in Iraq say they would vote for McCain in an Obama-McCain matchup.

SIEGEL: But in this question of how many Democrats could the Democratic nominee count on at least in a poll today, your saying Senator Clinton does better than Barack Obama?

Mr. KOHUT: Senator Clinton enjoys the support of 89 percent of Democrats, potentially, compared to just 81 percent for Barack Obama.

SIEGEL: By the way, do you find the corroboration of Senator Obama's claim that he can effectively reach out to independents and even some Republicans?

Mr. KOHUT: Indeed, we do in the survey, in fact, Obama runs about as well against McCain as Hillary Clinton does, but they do it in different ways. Hillary Clinton gets more loyalty from core Democrats - 89 percent versus 81 percent for Obama. But Obama draws more support from independents than Hillary Clinton - 49 percent versus 44 percent. He actually carries the independent vote in this test election. Hillary Clinton would not carry the independent vote matched up against John McCain.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Andy.

Mr. KOHUT: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, talking about Pew's latest national poll.

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