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Public Sees Different Strengths and Weaknesses in Democratic Contenders

After two months of controversies surrounding statements made by Democratic candidates Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Clinton maintains an edge among Democrats on the character traits of experience, strong leadership, patriotism and judgment.

Democrats see Sen. Obama as stronger on the traits “trustworthy” and “saying what he/she believes.” Democrats see no difference between the candidates on the trait “shares my values.” These new findings are being released today by the National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES) of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania (See Table 1).

Among self-identified independents, Sen. Obama is rated higher than Sen. Clinton on the traits “trustworthy,” “says what he/she believes,” “shares my values,” “strong leader,” and “has the judgment needed to be president.” Sen. Clinton is rated higher than Sen. Obama among independents on “experience” and “patriotism.” Self-identified Republicans were excluded from the analysis (See Table 1).

The trend lines for the seven traits the NAES survey has been tracking (see charts found in the Appendix) suggest the possibility of negative effects for Sen. Obama on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright issues and for Sen. Clinton on her comments about her trip to Bosnia as first lady. We have indicated with vertical lines on the charts what we see as major points in the campaign and other events that may have affected candidate ratings.

The field period for this analysis was February 26 through May 4,2008 for the traits “strong leader,” “trustworthy,” “has the experience needed to be President” “has the judgment needed to be President” and “says what he (she) believes.” The field period for the trait “patriotic” ran from April 10through May 4, 2008. The trait “shares my values” is reported for the period April 10 to May 4, 2008. Self-identified Republicans were excluded from the analysis. Respondents were asked to rate Sens. Clinton and Obama on a variety of traits on a 10-point scale (See Appendix for full question wording).