Will Hillary supporters back Obama? Is John McCain too old? Will white male Democrats vote for Obama? After weeks of speculation by pundits, the Pew Research Center this afternoon has weighed in with some real data. In a wide-ranging new poll, the center finds record voter interest in the presidential election this summer, with enthusiasm among Democratic voters far surpassing enthusiasm among Republicans. No shocker there.
But the poll does offer a smattering of sometimes-surprising revelations and eye-raising electoral morsels: A sizable fraction of former Hillary Clinton supporters, for example, say they'll vote for McCain over Obama. A vast majority of voters apparently don't give a hoot about McCain's age. More than half of Democrats want Hillary Clinton as Obama's running mate. And more than half of conservatives, usually an optimistic lot by nature, say they expect McCain to lose in November.
Here's a breakdown of some of the poll's main findings (based on data collected June 18-29 from 2,004 Americans):
1. Excitement: More Democrats than Republicans "are giving a lot of thought" to this year's election. Nearly 8 in 10 Democratic voters say they are engaged in the campaign. Only 60 percent of Republicans said the same. Both figures are up from 2004, but this election is the first in at least two decades in which Democrats have been more engaged than Republicans. Democrats also are a lot happier with their candidate. More than half of Obama supporters identified themselves as "strong" supporters of their candidate. About one third of McCain's backers said the same about their support for him.
2. The Hillary factor: Sixty-nine percent of former Hillary Clinton backers now support Obama. That figure is up 10 points from May, but the Obama campaign still has some catching up to do. About 17 percent of Hillary's camp plans to vote for McCain, and another 12 percent of her former supporters are still undecided.
3. Hillary as veep? Fifty-five percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters want to see Hillary Clinton as the party's vice presidential nominee. That number is up slightly from May, when 53 percent of Democrats said Obama should choose Clinton. But there's a stark schism: Only 37 percent of voters who supported Obama in the primary think he should pick Clinton, compared to 78 percent of former Clinton backers.
4. Age: In the eyes of most respondents, McCain isn't too old for the presidency. Seventy-six percent discount his age as a factor. Twenty-one percent do find him too old, but that percentage is down 5 percent from February.
5. Swing voters: A whopping one third of registered voters say they are currently undecided or could change their minds before November. Only about 21 percent of voters fell into the category in 2004. And this year, their loyalties are split: About one third of the swing vote group is leaning McCain, one third is leaning Obama, and the remaining third is "completely undecided."
6. Issues: Nothing new here. Obama bests McCain on economic issues, 51 percent to 31 percent; McCain bests Obama on national security issues, 55 percent to 31 percent. Nearly three quarters of voters say Obama, not McCain, "has new ideas." But voters like McCain's personal qualities, giving him a 2-to-1 nod when asked to pick the candidate "personally qualified to be president."
7. Religion: Apparently the "Reverend" part of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal flew over some people's heads. About 12 percent of voters still think that Obama is a Muslim (compared with 10 percent in March.) He's not.