Poll: Voters think Obama's done better explaining economy

WASHINGTON — More good news for Barack Obama hours before he and Republican John McCain debate: A lot more people think Obama has done a better job than McCain explaining his views on the economy, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

The survey, released Wednesday, found that 48 percent think Obama has done an excellent or good job explaining his economic views. There's some sobering news, though, for the Illinois senator, as roughly the same percentage think he has done a fair or poor job.

Still, those are better numbers than McCain's. The survey, conducted Oct. 9-12, found 29 percent thought McCain has done an excellent or good job in explaining his approach to the crisis, while two-thirds thought he has done a fair or poor job.

Pew found there's no doubt the economy is by far the dominant issue 20 days before the election.

But, it also found, "there is little indication that the nation’s financial crisis has triggered public panic or despair. Most Americans express confidence that the government still possesses the power to fix the economy, though that belief has lost adherents since July. There has been no decline in people’s perceptions of their own financial situations.

"Looking ahead to next year, Americans are more confident than they were in July about an improvement in the national economy and in their own personal finances."

Nonetheless, there's worry. Pew found that over the last three weeks, as markets have reeled and major financial institutions have seen huge problems, "there have been sharp increases in the percentages saying they plan to rein in spending in a number of areas."

And for the first time in a Pew survey, more Americans say that “people should learn to live with less,” rather than that “there are no limits to growth in this country.”

Obama is benefitting; he now has a 50-40 percent lead over McCain, and, Pew said, "a greater share of (Obama's) supporters back him strongly."

Read the survey.