Donald Lambro

These are among the causes and problems that McCain points to as he proposes that we boost oil production as part of a multistep energy plan to reduce prices. Obama is patently hostile to further oil exploration and drilling.

While the USA Today poll finds Americans favoring Obama on energy over McCain, a separate Gallup Poll shows they support drilling in U.S. coastal and wilderness areas by 57 percent to 41 percent -- places that Obama says would be off-limits under his policies.

This apparent confusion suggests that the electorate still does not know enough about the candidates and the details in their agendas.

Another inexplicable anomaly in the issues being polled: If Obama is perceived as far better than McCain on most of the top problems facing the country, why does Gallup's daily-tracking poll (June 23 to June 25) of registered voters show the contest is a tossup -- 44 percent to 44 percent?

One possible reason for this discrepancy: the racial polarization in an Obama-McCain contest. An ABC News/Washington Post poll last week showed McCain leading his Democratic rival among white voters by 51 percent to 39 percent.

To be sure, this election is in its infancy, with much of the electorate still sorting through their feelings about the candidates -- a process that won't begin to get serious until after Labor Day. That's why it remains a tossup and likely will throughout the summer.

One voter statistic to watch: Obama holds a substantial lead among younger Americans, leading McCain by 59 percent to 32 percent among voters under 30. But voters in their 20s have a poor turnout rate overall and may not deliver their hoped-for windfall.

McCain, however, finds his highest support among voters in their 60s. He leads Obama by 10 percent (48 to 38) in this group and has the edge among voters in their 70s and 80s -- groups that have a high turnout rate.

Notably, though, there is little or no gender gap in voting preferences among those in their 40s, according to Gallup. This suggests that these Americans, who have high turnout rates, too, are up for grabs and could decide the election.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.