News Interest Index: Obama's Background Better Known Than His Issue Positions

Aug 27, 2008

As Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democratic Party's nomination for president and frame his campaign message for the fall, many Americans still do not have a clear understanding of where he stands on the issues. Public awareness of Obama's policy positions has increased modestly over the past month. Still, fewer than half (48%) know a lot or a fair amount about his foreign policy positions, while 51% say they know just some or very little. Somewhat more people (56%) know at least a fair amount about Obama's economic positions, while 44% know just some or very little.

Americans know more about Obama's personal history than they do about his policy positions. More than six-in-ten (62%) say they know a lot or a fair amount about his background and qualifications, while 37% say they know just some or very little.

Similarly, more people say they know about John McCain's background than are aware of his positions on foreign policy and economics. Overall, 64% say they know at least a fair amount about McCain's background and qualifications; by comparison, 54% say they know a lot or a fair amount about his foreign policy positions and the same percentage (54%) says they are aware of his economic positions.

Democrats are more likely than Republican to say they know about Obama's personal background and policy positions; the reverse is true for McCain. For their part, independents are more familiar with McCain than they are with Obama - both in terms of the candidates' foreign policy positions and their personal backgrounds. Among independents, 55% say they know a lot or a fair amount about McCain's foreign policy positions, while only 42% know at least a fair amount about where Obama stands on foreign policy. Independents are even more familiar with McCain's background and experience: 67% say they know a lot or a fair amount. Only 56% of independents know as much about Obama's personal history. On economic policies, independents are equally familiar with both McCain and Obama.

Read the full report Obama's Background Better Known Than His Issue Positions on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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