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Ideological Fire Misses the Mark

Despite strong GOP efforts to define Barack Obama as "too liberal" and an equally pointed Democratic campaign aimed at labeling John McCain as "too conservative," voters' impressions of the main presidential contenders' ideological leanings have budged little since June, according to a new release from the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.

McCain has argued consistently that Obama's policy views closely resemble those of a typical tax-and-spend liberal, and Obama has countered by portraying McCain as a repackaged version of George W. Bush's compassionate conservative, minus the compassion. But neither candidate appears to have made great inroads here: The proportions of likely voters who consider Obama as too far left, 40 percent, and McCain as too far right, 38 percent, both have held basically steady.

A majority in the new poll, 55 percent, said Obama's views on most issues are "just about right," about the same as in a Post-ABC poll ten days ago, and on par with mid-summer results. The percentage who view McCain as such is lower, but also relatively unchanged.

Although there has been little evident direct effect, for McCain, making the argument may be doing more harm than good. What was an even split in May on which candidate has higher personal and ethical standards has become a double-digit Obama advantage. Nearly half, 49 percent, of voters give Obama the advantage on the question, compared with 39 percent for McCain.

Obama has solidified Democrats on the question over the course of the campaign, while Republicans have increasingly shifted to McCain. It's in the political middle where McCain's stumble on this question is most important: Back in May, McCain held a nearly 20-point advantage as the one with higher standards among white independent voters - that has now evaporated, with voters in this critical group evenly divided.

African American voters have completely abandoned McCain on this question, as they have on the vote question. In May, 12 percent chose him as the candidate with higher moral standards, but in the new poll, none gave the senator from Arizona an advantage (though two percent said the two candidates held equally high principles).

The overall shift on this question mirrors other recent findings suggesting McCain's straight-talk image may be eroding. In a Post-ABC poll conducted in mid-October, nearly six in 10 voters said McCain was mainly attacking his opponent rather than addressing the issues, and a tracking poll earlier this week found Obama with a 17-point advantage as the candidate with the better personality and temperament to be president.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  October 23, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Tracking  
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Next: Obama Ties-up McCain in "Red States"


Question: how does one reconcile this poll against the AP Poll announced today that shows Obama 44% and McCain 43%?

Posted by: Joe LaGrone | October 23, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Question: how does one reconcile this poll against the AP Poll announced today that shows Obama 44% and McCain 43%?

Answer: If you like a result, it could be because of your wishful thinking. If you dislike it, maybe it is denial of the obvious.
Never trust the polls.

Posted by: awaler | October 23, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Looks like America is doing a slow but steady turn to the left.
As per AP poll disparity, I understand from another blog post that the sampling was weighted towards southern males. This of course needs to be verified. Go to to get a compendium of polls. Picking one over the other is a crapshoot...but an average of many should be close to reality.

Posted by: mendonsa | October 23, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I think Obama and Mccain are good people but i think also that Obama has the best policies. Watch Funny Videos

Posted by: roverfind | October 23, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Question: how does one reconcile this poll against the AP Poll announced today that shows Obama 44% and McCain 43%?

Answer: It depends a LOT upon who you're polling. To quote "The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder points out that 44 percent of the respondents identified themselves as evangelicals—about twice what pollsters would expect. So take the poll with a huge grain of salt."

Posted by: MelFromMO | October 23, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

How does one reconcile this poll with the AP poll that shows a dead heat? One looks at all the tracking polls and sees that the AP poll is so far from the norm as to be unbelievable. Yes, the Post's Obama +11 is high, but it's not so high as to be dismissable.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to say go to: for a really smart take on all the polls.

Posted by: bdcolen | October 23, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Please make your opinion count: VOTE.
No opinion counts unless you VOTE.

Increase your voting power by getting others to VOTE.
Please use the next 2 weeks encouraging others to VOTE!

Focus on making the DREAM COME TRUE: Obama '08

Posted by: ford9504 | October 23, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The truth is that picking Gov. Palin sealed the deal for me and for many others.

Sen. McCain has some good ideas, as stated many times before, in 2000, but he has changed and after he chose his VP we all knew where he would end up.

Codling to the right and pandering to a small base of bible huggers was not what was happening to this country or the world. That is why his is going to lose big to the REAL AMERICA!

Posted by: jrubin1 | October 23, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey everyone...I hear all sorts of things about his "Associations" with folks like of Ayres, and then there's Khalidi and then a guy named Michael Klonsky and Rezko and then the religious dudes Flager and Reve Wright... and someone told me that while living in Hawaii his mentor was a guy name Fank Marshall Davis Gonna watch Sun(oct26) 9ET on Foxnews Sean Hannity's show on Obama to understand

Posted by: goforit999 | October 26, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

McCain has run the sleaziest campaign in history, of course his negatives or up. Any sign of ethics or even basic truthfulness disappeared from McCain months ago. Now McCain looks like he is going to be the first candidate in history running negative ads on election day.

Hes tanking fast!

Posted by: MarcMyWords | October 27, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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