July 14, 2008
A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds voters are more interested in the 2008 election than they were the 2004 election, but they are less informed on where the candidates stand.
Pew finds that just 52 percent of voters rightly identify Obama as pro-abortion ("pro-choice" in the poll's terminology") and only 45 percent know John McCain is pro-life on abortion.
A stunning 38 percent of voters don't know where either Obama or McCain stand on the issue of abortion. Some ten percent wrongly identify Obama as pro-life and 17 percent think McCain supports abortion.
This information gap is important and a subsequent question shows whichever side of the abortion debate can frame the candidates first will likely help one of them win the election.
Among pro-life voters who know where the two candidates stand, McCain trounces Obama by a whopping 70-24 percentage point margin. Surprisingly, Obama has a one percent lead (43-42 percent) among pro-life voters who are uninformed about their abortion positions.
On the other side, pro-abortion groups will be working overtime to educate their supporters as well.
That's because Obama leads 71-24 percent among pro-abortion voters who know where the two candidates stand and he has a much smaller 48-40 percent lead among pro-abortion voters who don't.
The Pew poll also found that Democrats and Obama supporters are much more energized about Obama than Republicans and McCain backers are about McCain.
Compared with previous election cycles, voter engagement is up among all demographic groups, but has increased more among voters under age 50 than among older voters.
Uncharacteristically, the youngest voters -- those under age 30 -- are at least as knowledgeable, and in some cases more knowledgeable, about candidates' positions on abortion than are older voters.
The Pew poll found younger voters are more likely to know where the candidates stand on abortion than older voters, evangelicals were more likely than Catholics, and white voters were more likely than black voters to know -- especially concerning McCain.
One pattern that differs from previous surveys of political knowledge is that younger voters are significantly more knowledgeable about the candidates’ positions than are older voters. For example, 60% of voters 18-29 correctly say that Obama is pro-abortion, compared with just 51% of those ages 50-64 and just 41% of those ages 65 and older.