Interest in the presidential election surged last week, with the public following campaign news more closely than at any point since the Super Tuesday primaries in February. As attention to the campaign has increased, the images of both Barack Obama and John McCain have improved in recent days, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
In a survey conducted Aug. 29-31, 29% say their opinion of Obama has become more favorable in recent days, while 19% say their opinion of the Illinois senator has become less favorable; 50% say their opinion of Obama has not changed. This marks the first time since the question was first asked in March that significantly more people said their opinion of Obama had become more favorable, rather than less favorable, in the days before the survey.
The public also reacted favorably to John McCain this past week. As with Obama, significantly more people say their opinion of McCain has become more favorable, rather than less favorable, in recent days (28% vs. 22%); 47% say their opinion of the Arizona senator has not changed.
The survey, conducted just after the Democratic convention concluded and McCain named Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, finds that interest in the campaign far surpassed interest in news about Hurricane Gustav as it approached the Gulf Coast. More than four-in-ten Americans (44%) cited news about the presidential election as the story they followed most closely last week. By comparison, just 18% cited reports about the hurricane as their top story of the week.
The survey found that Palin's selection registered strongly with the public: 56% said they heard a lot about "McCain's choice of a vice presidential running mate." However, about as many people (58%) said they heard a lot about Obama's choice of a running mate - Delaware Sen. Joe Biden - a week earlier.
Read the full report After Busy Week, Views of Both Candidates Improve on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.