- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2008

John McCain is facing an excitement deficit.

While overall interest in the presidential campaign has swelled since last fall, backers of Sen. Barack Obama are more fired up and express more loyalty to their candidate than Mr. McCain’s do, a poll by the Associated Press and Yahoo News showed Friday. In addition, individual groups backing Mr. Obama - blacks, Democrats and liberals - are more enthusiastic than whites, Republicans and conservatives, who are more aligned with Mr. McCain, the GOP senator from Arizona.

Mr. Obama faces hurdles of his own. The poll shows lagging fervor for the Democratic senator from Illinois by supporters of his vanquished rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And there are lots of dispirited and undecided independents, who are expected to be pivotal on Election Day, now less then four months off.

The passion and interest shown by blocs of voters are important because they affect who will be motivated to vote. For now, the numbers favor Mr. Obama: 38 percent of his supporters say the election is exciting compared with 9 percent of Mr. McCain’s. Sixty-five percent of Mr. Obama’s backers say they are hopeful about the campaign, double Mr. McCain’s, and the Democrat’s supporters are three times likelier to express pride.

“Being African-American, you know, I do have some biases,” said John Douglas, 67, of Villa Rica, Ga., an Obama supporter. He said the pride and thrill he feels about the possibility of the first black president “has been building up for my lifetime; it’s been building up since the inception of our country.”

Half of Mr. McCain’s supporters say the race makes them frustrated, more than double Mr. Obama’s backers. By 2-to-1 or more, Mr. McCain’s backers are likelier than Mr. Obama’s to say the campaign makes them bored, angry and helpless. And while 16 percent of those preferring Mr. Obama say they may change their candidate, 24 percent of Mr. McCain’s say they might switch.

“I don’t feel I have a choice I can really get behind,” said Carol Hall, 63, a Republican from Yorktown, Va., who prefers Mr. McCain but said he isn’t conservative enough. But she doesn’t trust Mr. Obama. “I think they’re pitiful choices.”

The AP-Yahoo News poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, has measured the political sentiments of the same 2,000 adults since November. While 45 percent expressed a great deal or quite a bit of interest in the campaign back then, 60 percent say so now, but it’s Mr. Obama supporters whose energy has increased:

cMore than twice as many Democrats as Republicans have gotten more excited about the campaign since the fall, 22 percent to 9 percent. Forty-seven percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats express frustration.

cBlacks are three times likelier than whites to be more excited about the election than they were last fall, 33 percent to 11 percent. They are also six times likelier to be more proud, 43 percent to 7 percent, and twice as likely to be more interested and hopeful.

Just 12 percent of former Clinton supporters say they are excited about the campaign, one-third the excitement level among Mr. Obama’s longer-term backers.

Independents, whom both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama are avidly pursuing, remain underwhelmed. Only 21 percent find the election interesting - down from 31 percent in November - and just 7 percent say it’s exciting. Substantial numbers say they feel frustrated, helpless and even bored.

The AP-Yahoo News poll of 1,759 adults was conducted from June 13-23 and has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

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