AP poll shows Obama backers gleeful, McCain’s glum
WASHINGTON – That smiling guy walking down the street? Odds are he’s a Barack Obama backer. The grouchy looking one? Don’t ask, and don’t necessarily count on him to vote next week, either.
Supporters of John McCain, long less enthusiastic than Obama’s, have become increasingly glum about the presidential campaign in recent weeks, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll released Saturday. Their feelings have turned more negative during a period that has seen Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, take a firm lead in many polls.
Obama’s backers have retained a higher level of excitement. One expert says the contrasting moods could affect how likely the two candidates’ supporters are to vote on Election Day, possibly dampening McCain’s turnout while boosting Obama’s.
While 43 percent of Obama’s backers said they are excited over the campaign, just 13 percent of McCain’s said so, according to the survey of adults, conducted by Knowledge Networks. Six in 10 Obama supporters said the race interests them, compared to four in 10 backing McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona.
On the flip side, 52 percent of McCain supporters said the campaign has left them frustrated, compared to 30 percent of Obama’s. A quarter of McCain backers say they feel helpless, double the rate of those preferring Obama.
More McCain supporters also feel angry and bored, while Obama’s are likelier to say they are proud and hopeful.
All of this is a bad sign for McCain, according to George E. Marcus, a political scientist from Williams College who has studied the role emotion plays in politics. Negative feelings about a campaign can discourage voters by making them less likely to go through what can be a painful process: Voting for someone who will lose.
“If I’m getting my head handed to me by a tennis player, my brain is saying, ‘Do I want a second match? No,'” Marcus said. “Why do something that’s going to lead to failure?”
Marcus said such emotions can be overcome by outside events, such as a campaign or neighbor urging a person to vote. There’s also the danger exuberant Obama backers might decide not to vote because of overconfidence. The Obama and McCain organizations combined have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for those very reasons.
Obama leads McCain among likely voters in the AP-Yahoo News poll, 51 percent to 43 percent.
Supporters of McCain cite a dislike for Obama, dissatisfaction with the campaign’s tone and frustration with how news organizations have treated their candidate.
“Flat disgusted, how’s that?” said Billie Hart, 80, a Houston Republican backing McCain. “Because that’s the way I feel about it. I don’t like the individual. I just don’t think the United States will be going in the right direction.”
Many Democrats say they’re energized by a candidate they perceive as different from most politicians and who can make a real difference.
“Elections have always been so ho-hum,” said Kathleen Rockwell, 61, an Obama supporter from Redmond, Wash. This time, “I feel connected. And that feels good.”
The AP-Yahoo News poll, which has followed the same group of 2,000 people since last November, underscores how individuals have reacted to the campaign’s currents. For many McCain supporters, it’s not been a happy period.
Three in 10 McCain backers who report being frustrated now said in September they weren’t. That is quadruple the number who became less frustrated.
At the same time, one in five McCain supporters are not interested in the campaign now who said they were in September. Half that number gained interest. By similar margins, McCain backers report becoming more angry, bored, overwhelmed and helpless and have become less excited, proud and hopeful.
“I’m real interested in having it over,” said Michele Roos, 64, a McCain supporter from Newport News, Va.
Enthusiasm by Obama backers has largely stayed steady since September, though slightly more of them ” 31 percent ” now say the campaign makes them feel proud.
“I didn’t like the candidates before,” said Angelique Sims, 38, an Obama supporter from Shawnee, Okla. “I like his character. I like the things he represents. He represents my views.”
A closer look at the numbers show how that emotions are playing out to Obama’s advantage in several pivotal groups of voters.
Forty-eight percent of those under age 30 who support Obama say they are excited over the race, compared to just 21 percent of those young voters who back McCain. That age group has been a reservoir of strong support for the Democrat.
Just 44 percent of whites supporting the Republican say the campaign interests them, compared to 58 percent of whites and 72 percent of blacks supporting Obama.
At the same time, half of McCain supporters age 65 and up say they’re frustrated, compared to three in 10 of Obama’s older voters. Also saying they’re frustrated are 53 percent of whites backing McCain ” compared to 40 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks behind Obama.
The AP-Yahoo News poll of 1,753 adults was conducted Oct. 17-27 and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Included were interviews with 803 Obama supporters and 703 McCain supporters, with error margins of plus or minus 3.5 and 3.7 points respectively.
The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.
AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Christine Simmons contributed to this report.
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