As the financial crisis pushes the economy back to the top of voters' concerns, Barack Obama is starting to open up a clear lead over John McCain in the opinion polls. But among those who study economics for a living, Mr Obama's lead is much more commanding. A survey of academic economists by The Economist finds the majority--at times by overwhelming margins--believe Mr Obama has the superior economic plan, a firmer grasp of economics and will appoint better economic advisers.
Our survey is not, by any means, a scientific poll of all economists. We e-mailed a questionnaire to 683 research associates, all we could track down, of the National Bureau of Economic Research, America's premier association of applied academic economists, though the NBER itself played no role in the survey. A total of 142 responded, of whom 46% identified themselves as Democrats, 10% as Republicans and 44% as neither. This skewed party breakdown may reflect academia's Democratic tilt, or possibly Democrats' greater propensity to respond. Still, even if we exclude respondents with a party identification, Mr Obama retains a strong edge--though the McCain campaign should be buoyed by the fact that 530 economists have signed a statement endorsing his plans.