By: Randolph E. Schmid
If the presidential election were up to pet owners, John McCain could have a blue ribbon in his future.
From George Washington’s foxhounds Drunkard and Tipsy to George W. Bush’s terriers Barney and Miss Beazley, pets are a longtime presidential tradition for which the presumed Republican nominee seems well prepared, with more than a dozen.
Democratic candidate Barack Obama, on the other hand, doesn’t have a pet, though he has promised his daughters a dog after the election, win or lose.
“From an image standpoint, nothing humanizes a candidate more than seeing him lovingly dote on his pet or toss a ball around on the White House lawn,” says American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson.
Recall Him and Her, Lyndon Johnson’s beagles who appeared on the cover of Life magazine. Or Fala, Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier who received more mail than many presidents.
An AP-Yahoo News poll found that pet owners favor McCain over Obama 42 percent to 37 percent, with dog owners particularly in McCain’s corner.
“I think a person who owns a pet is a more compassionate person ? caring, giving, trustworthy. I like pet owners,” said Janet Taylor of Plymouth, Mass.
Taylor, who described herself as a retired stay-at-home wife, owns two cats, Lady Jane Taylor and Mr. Tommy Katz.
Richard Powell, 79, of Spokane, Wash., whose dog passed away last fall, said if a person owns a pet, that “tells you that they’re responsible at least for something, for the care of something.”
He said pet ownership wouldn’t make a difference in his vote, but if a president owns a pet, “I’m glad to know they like animals.”
If voters identify with a guy who owns pets, then it’s easy to see why they’d like the Arizona senator.
He has a veritable menagerie, including Sam the English springer spaniel, Coco the mutt, turtles Cuff and Link, Oreo the black and white cat, a ferret, three parakeets and a bunch of saltwater fish.
The poll found that among people who don’t have pets, Obama leads McCain 48 percent to 34 percent.
But that still leaves McCain looking strong, since the majority of homes have a pet.
The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association estimates that 63 percent of American homes include a pet, including 88 million cats and 75 million dogs.
Dog owners lean toward McCain, 43 percent to 34 percent, while cat owners basically divide their loyalties with 41 percent for McCain and 38 percent for Obama.
The population breakdown of who has pets and who doesn’t may be a factor.
For example, the poll found 47 percent of whites own dogs, compared with just 24 percent of blacks. Whites tend to favor McCain, while blacks overwhelmingly favor Obama.
Some 64 percent of dog owners are married, slightly higher than the overall population. The poll found 47 percent of married people own dogs, compared with 39 percent of non-married people. Married people tend to favor McCain.
The AP-Yahoo News poll is part of an ongoing study that tracks the attitudes and opinions of a group of more than 2,000 Americans to see how their political views evolve over the course of the election campaign.
The AP-Yahoo News survey of 1,759 adults was conducted from June 13-23 and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for population subgroups is larger.
The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it free.
Associated Press Director of Surveys Trevor Tompson and AP Writer Natasha Metzler in Washington contributed to this report.