- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2008

The emotional tally is in: Sen Barack Obama appears to be winning the popularity derby.

High-profile news coverage has honed his image among Democratic voters — and sullied their perceptions of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a survey from the Pew Research Center said.

Mrs. Clinton is more “phony” and less inspiring than Mr. Obama, according to respondents. Twice as many Democrats think Mrs. Clinton lacks sincerity: 28 percent said she was a phony, compared with 14 percent who said the same about Mr. Obama.

“Democratic voters are considerably more likely to attribute positive traits to Obama than to Clinton, while negative traits are more often associated with Clinton,” the analysis said.

“Eight in ten Democratic voters say Barack Obama is down to earth (82 percent), inspiring (82 percent) and honest (80 percent). By comparison, about two-thirds see Hillary Clinton as inspiring (66 percent) and honest (65 percent) and slightly fewer say she is down to earth (62 percent).”

But the New York Democrat has the upper hand in the flag-waving department over her Illinois rival.

“When it comes to being seen as patriotic, however, Clinton has a slight edge over her opponent; 86 percent say she is patriotic, while 78 percent say that about Obama,” it said.

There are divides within the party in race and gender, though.

The survey revealed that among white Democrats, 53 percent said Mr. Obama made them “proud.” Among black Democrats, the number was 82 percent. More than two-thirds of Democratic women were proud of Mrs. Clinton, compared with 42 percent of Democratic men. Women were also more likely to feel inspired and hopeful than their male counterparts.

Potential crossover voters may also favor Mr. Obama come November.

“Among voters overall, seven in ten view Obama as inspiring and two-thirds say he is down to earth. Considerably fewer see him as phony (27 percent) or hard to like (17 percent). By contrast, fewer than half of registered voters see Clinton as inspiring (49 percent) or down to earth (45 percent). Regardless of party, voters assess Obama more favorably across a series of traits,” the analysis said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has completely dominated news coverage: 70 percent of the respondents said they had heard more about him in the news than any other candidate. Just 15 percent said that about Mrs. Clinton and 3 percent about Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Eight in 10 of the respondents had followed Mr. Obama’s speech on race and the controversies surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. The situation has had little impact on his party, the survey found. A quarter of Democrats said they were “uneasy” about Mr. Obama — but cited his inexperience rather than his friendship with Mr. Wright as the primary reason.

The survey of 1,503 adults was conducted March 19 to 22, 2008, with a margin of error of three percentage points.

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