Washington John McCain is facing an excitement deficit.
While overall interest in the presidential campaign has swelled since last fall, backers of Barack Obama are more fired up and express more loyalty to their candidate than McCain's do, a poll by The Associated Press and Yahoo News showed Friday. In addition, individual groups backing Obama - African-Americans, Democrats and liberals - are more enthusiastic than whites, Republicans and conservatives, who are more aligned with McCain, the GOP senator from Arizona.
Obama faces hurdles of his own. The poll shows lagging fervor for the Democratic senator from Illinois by supporters of his vanquished rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And there are lots of dispirited and undecided independents, who are expected to be pivotal on Election Day, now less then four months off.
The passion and interest shown by blocs of voters are important because they affect who will be motivated to vote. For now, the numbers favor Obama: 38 percent of his supporters say the election is exciting compared with 9 percent of McCain's. Sixty-five percent of Obama's backers say they are hopeful about the campaign, double McCain's, and the Democrat's supporters are three times likelier to express pride.
"Being African-American, you know, I do have some biases," said John Douglas, 67, of Villa Rica, Ga., an Obama supporter. He said the pride and thrill he feels about the possibility of the first black president "has been building up for my lifetime, it's been building up since the inception of our country."
Half of McCain's supporters say the race makes them frustrated, more than double Obama's backers who say so. By 2-to-1 or more, McCain backers are likelier than Obama's to say the campaign makes them bored, angry and helpless. And while 16 percent of those preferring Obama say they may change their candidate, 24 percent of McCain's say they might do the same.
"I don't feel I have a choice I can really get behind," said Carol Hall, 63, a Republican from Yorktown, Va., who prefers McCain but said he isn't conservative enough. But she doesn't trust Obama. "I think they're pitiful choices."
The AP-Yahoo News poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, has measured the political sentiments of the same 2,000 adults since November. While 45 percent expressed a great deal or quite a bit of interest in the campaign back then, 60 percent say so now, but it's Obama supporters whose energy has grown more:
¢ More than twice as many Democrats as Republicans have gotten more excited about the campaign since the fall, 22 percent to 9 percent. Forty-seven percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats express frustration.
¢ Blacks are three times likelier than whites to be more excited about the election than they were last fall, 33 percent to 11 percent. They are also six times likelier to be more proud, 43 percent to 7 percent, and twice as likely to be more interested and hopeful. Right now, 44 percent of whites and just 11 percent of blacks say the election frustrates them, and whites are far likelier to say they feel angry and helpless.
¢ Liberals are three times likelier than conservatives to be more excited than they were and twice as likely to be more proud. Nineteen percent of conservatives feel more helpless, compared to 9 percent of liberals.