On the eve of the presidential debates, registered voters give John McCain an 11-point advantage over Barack Obama on making wise decisions about foreign policy, the topic of the first debate. McCain is favored by 51% of registered voters, an eight-point gain on the issue since July. Obama is favored by 40% of registered voters. McCain also leads by a wide margin on defending the country from terrorist attacks (56% to 31%). His current advantages over Obama on terrorism and foreign policy are on par with President Bush’s leads over John Kerry on these issues at this stage in the 2004 campaign. However, about four-in-ten (42%) voters say that they “worry McCain will take America into another war,” while only three-in-ten (30%) agree that the chances of a terrorist attack would increase if Obama is elected. On energy, another issue that will be discussed in the realm of foreign policy, McCain has made gains (7 points) but Obama is still preferred by a 46%-to-40% margin. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.