Image: dog dressed in support of Obama
Matt Rourke  /  AP file
In this March 7, 2008, file photo a dog dressed in support of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is held by a supporter outside the city's Democratic headquarters in Philadelphia.
updated 7/8/2008 12:16:19 PM ET 2008-07-08T16:16:19

If the presidential election goes to the dogs, John McCain is looking like best in show.

From George Washington's foxhound "Drunkard" 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.

The apparent Democratic nominee Barack Obama, on the other hand, does not have a pet at home.

The pet-owning public seems to have noticed the difference.

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.

'Compassionate'
"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, Massachusetts, who owns two cats.

Richard Powell, 79, of Spokane, Washington, whose dog passed away late last year, said that 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 would not make a difference in his vote, but if a president owns a pet, then "I'm glad to know they like animals."

American Kennel Club spokeswoman Christina Duffney said, "You usually connect with things that you're familiar with, so that could be a part of" why pet owners lean toward McCain.

Ferret
Well, if voters identify with a guy who owns pets, it's easy to see why they'd like the Arizona senator.

McCain 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.

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On the other hand, 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.

Obama's promise
While he doesn't currently have a pet, Obama has reportedly promised his daughters a dog once the campaign is over.

In a spirit of helpfulness, the American Kennel Club is collecting opinions as to what kind of dog Obama should get.

There are more than 150 breeds available, but not every one is suitable for every family because of exercise needs, allergies, personalities and other reasons.

So the Kennel club has narrowed the choices down to five breeds and is asking the public to vote at http://www.presidentialpup.com, with voting to continue until mid-August.

Their suggestions: Bichon Frise, Chinese crested, poodle, soft coated Wheaten Terrier or miniature Schnauzer.

According to the Presidential Pets Museum there are no records of family pets in the administrations of James K. Polk, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and Chester Arthur. Fillmore, however, was a founding member of the Buffalo, New York, chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

President Andrew Johnson reportedly left flour out at night for a family of mice living in the White House, though it's not clear if that counts as having a pet.

Here's a look at the poll results:

  • All pet owners: McCain, 42 percent; Obama, 37 percent; Nader, 3 percent; other, 3 percent; undecided, 14 percent. Margin of error, plus or minus 2.9 points.
  • Do not own a pet: Obama, 48 percent; McCain, 34 percent; Nader, 3 percent; other, 3 percent; undecided, 12 percent. Margin of error, 4.1 points.
  • Dog owners: McCain, 43 percent; Obama, 34 percent; Nader, 3 percent; other, 3 percent, undecided, 12 percent. Margin of error, 3.6 points.
  • Cat owners: McCain, 41 percent; Obama, 38 percent; Nader, 3 percent; other, 4 percent; undecided, 14 percent. Margin of error 3.9 points.

Race, marriage play a role
The population breakdown of who has pets and who doesn't also 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.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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