Democratic voters no longer see Hillary Rodham Clinton as the party's strongest contender for the White House, but her opponent is also sustaining dents and dings from their lengthy presidential fight, an Associated Press (AP)-Yahoo News poll shows.
Voters of all types have got a better sense of Barack Obama, who was an obscure Illinois legislator just four years ago. As more people moved from the "I don't know him" category in the poll, more rated Obama as inexperienced, unethical and dishonest. And 15 percent erroneously think he's a Muslim, thanks in part to disinformation widely spread on the Internet.
But Obama's positive ratings have climbed as well, while Clinton - widely known since the early 1990s - has been less able to change people's views of her. And when those views have shifted, it has hurt her more than helped.
The New York senator's ratings for being honest, likable, ethical and refreshing have fallen since January, and Obama scores higher than she does in all those categories.
In a dramatic reversal, the AP-Yahoo News poll found that a clear majority of Democratic voters now say Obama has the better chance of defeating Republican Senator John McCain in November.
In late January, before Obama scored 11 straight primary and caucus victories, 56 percent of Democrats saw Clinton as the stronger nominee, compared with 33 percent for Obama. Now, Obama leads on that question, 56 percent to 43 percent.
Still, the poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, contains some worrisome signs for the first-term senator. Those rating him as "not at all honest," for example, jumped from 18 percent last fall to 27 percent in April. It came as he was put on the defensive over incendiary comments by his former pastor. But many holding such views are Republicans or conservative independents who would be unlikely to vote in a Democratic primary or support a Democrat in the fall anyway.
The most encouraging sign for Obama is that many Democrats who previously saw Clinton as their party's best hope now give him that role. About one-third of them still prefer Clinton, but they have lost confidence in her electability.
"I would love to vote for Hillary," said Nancy Costello of Bellevue, Kentucky, one of the more than 1,800 randomly selected adults whose opinions are rechecked every few months in the AP-Yahoo News poll. "I'm 67, and I'll probably never get another chance to vote for a woman."
But Obama now appears to be the stronger candidate, she said, and electing a Democrat in November is paramount. If McCain wins and continues many of President George W. Bush's economic and foreign policies, Costello said, "I think I would just sit down and cry."
By tracking the same group throughout the campaign, the poll can gauge how individual views change. It suggests that Clinton has paid a price for hammering Obama since early February on several issues as she tries to overcome his lead in delegates and the popular vote. Among those Democrats who no longer consider her the more electable of the two, most now see her as less likable, decisive, strong, honest, experienced and ethical than they did in January.
(Agencies via China Daily April 19, 2008)