Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Matter of Trust

The McCain presidential campaign obviously thinks that Americans are stupid, that all of us can be fooled all of the time. As The New Republic puts it, for the McCain folks, “Perception is reality. Facts don’t matter.”

However, the multiplicity of lies told over the last few months by John “100 Years War” McCain and his frighteningly inexperienced running mate, Sarah Palin, haven’t gone unnoticed by voters. As Steve Benen reports this morning in The Washington Monthly, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds not only that recent economic fears have given Democrat Barack Obama an advantage over his deregulation-obsessed, lobbyist-connected Republican’t opponent, but that the public has significantly greater faith in Obama’s trustworthiness (boldfacing mine):
As we know, voters often look to personal characteristics, instead of issue positions, when evaluating candidates, and as it turns out, these may pose an even bigger problem for the McCain campaign than simple horse-race numbers.

Asked, for example, which candidate would do more to bring needed change to Washington, voters prefer Obama to McCain by 25 points (58% to 33%). Asked which candidate better understands the economic problems people are having, voters again prefer Obama by a wide margin (57% to 33%). Asked which candidate is the stronger leader, a question on which McCain used to excel, Obama now has a narrow lead (47% to 46%).

And in my personal favorite, the poll asked respondents which candidate is “more honest and trustworthy.” Obama enjoys a healthy, double-digit lead, 47% to 36%.

Just as importantly, this is a recent development. When voters were asked this same question about candidate honesty in mid-July, Obama and McCain were about tied (Obama had a three-point lead). The same poll asked the same question in August, and again, they were about tied (Obama led by just one point). Shortly after the Republican convention, McCain was perceived as more trustworthy by six points.

And now, that trend has completely reversed, and Obama leads by 11 points on honesty and trustworthiness.

I mention this in part because there’s been a noticeable trend of late of political observers expressing their disappointment in the McCain campaign’s relentless lying and shameless dishonesty, and I’ve wondered whether voters would pick up on any of this. If the poll results are any indication, they have.
READ MORE:Campaign of Lies Disgraces McCain” (St. Petersburg Times); “Are Obama and McCain Really Equally Dishonest?,” by Jonathan Chait (The New Republic); “Shading--or Ignorning--Truth on the Campaign Trail,” by Cathleen Decker (Los Angeles Times); “83 Percent of Americans Think the Country’s on the Wrong Track” (AP); “New York Times: McCain Lied About Campaign Manager Rick Davis’ Ties to Fannie and Freddie,” by John Aravosis (AMERICAblog).

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