The significant news coverage Barack Obama is receiving on his foreign trip has not translated into a bounce in his numbers, a just-released FOX News poll shows. Obama now holds the slimmest possible edge over John McCain, leading by just 41 percent - 40 percent in a head-to-head contest. In fact, Obama’s support is down slightly from his 45 percent - 41 percent advantage last month.
• Click here to view full results of the poll (pdf).
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from July 22 to July 23. During that time Obama was traveling in Jordan, Israel and Palestinian territories. In the days before the poll was taken Obama had been touring Afghanistan and Iraq. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Among independents, Obama has a narrow 2 percentage point edge: 34 percent to McCain’s 32 percent, and 34 percent undecided.
McCain has more strength of support from his party faithful. Fully 86 percent of Republicans back McCain compared to 75 percent of Democrats that back Obama.
Given that the independent vote splits about evenly, one might expect McCain’s strength in Republican support would give him an advantage overall. The reason that fails to happen is that the pool of Republican voters is smaller than the pool of Democratic voters, which means McCain’s party-based edge has less impact on the race than it might otherwise. In this poll 42 percent of voters identify as Democrat and 33 percent Republican, and that’s about where the party identification numbers have been all year.
"It seems increasingly clear that this race will come down to which candidate can better appeal to the roughly one-third of independent voters who remain undecided," says Ernie Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics.
McCain’s support declines a little when third party candidates are included, even though Libertarian Bob Barr receives less than 1 percent and independent Ralph Nader receives only 2 percent, Obama’s advantage goes to 3 percentage points (40 percent to 37 percent). Another 17 percent are undecided.
More voters say they would be “enthusiastic” if Obama (23 percent) were to become the next president than if McCain does (13 percent). On the other hand, more also say they would be “scared” if Obama wins (19 percent) than if McCain wins (14 percent).
Overall, about equal numbers would have a positive reaction (enthusiastic or pleased) if either Obama (45 percent) or McCain (41 percent) were elected.
On the Issues
On the top issues in the election, Obama is trusted more to handle the economy (47 percent – 36 percent) and health care (51 percent – 31 percent). McCain is trusted more on the war on terrorism (52 percent – 34 percent) and the situation in Iraq (47 percent – 39 percent).
The good news for the Obama campaign is significantly more people say they will decide their vote based on economic issues (40 percent) than on national security issues (18 percent).
The candidates are essentially tied when asked which is trusted more to appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court (Obama 40 percent – McCain 41 percent) and hold down spending (Obama 41 percent – McCain 41 percent).
Many more voters think Obama (30 percent) has made some “serious changes” to his positions on the issues since the end of the primary than think McCain has (18 percent). Equal numbers of voters think Obama (36 percent) and McCain (37 percent) have made small changes to their positions.
Is Obama a Christian or a Muslim?
A majority thinks talk of Obama being a Muslim is just that – talk. Some 57 percent say Obama is a Christian and disregard comments about him being a Muslim as rumor. One in ten 10 percent believe Obama is a Muslim. Another 27 percent are unsure.
Majorities of Democrats (71 percent) and independents (59 percent) believe Obama is a Christian. Republicans (20 percent) are much more likely than independents (7 percent) and Democrats (5 percent) to believe Obama is secretly a Muslim.
Just under half — 49 percent — think McCain’s time in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp would make him a better president and 11 percent say that experience would make him a worse president. One third (33 percent) say McCain’s five years in captivity would make no difference to his ability to serve as president.
Two Likeable Guys
Both Obama and McCain are viewed positively by voters. A 58 percent majority has a favorable opinion of Obama and 33 percent unfavorable. For McCain, 54 percent view him favorably and 38 percent unfavorably.