The November election is just weeks away, and polls indicate that much of the public is paying close attention to the presidential race. But, as a new survey suggests, that doesn't necessarily mean voters know where the candidates stand on the issues.

The poll, conducted by the National Annenberg Election Survey, found that when Americans were asked which candidate supports eight given policy positions, they were correct 51 percent of the time.

Despite President Bush's strong antiabortion views, only 64 percent knew which candidate supports more restrictive laws on abortion. Barely half -- 51 percent -- knew that John F. Kerry backs allowing prescription drug imports from Canada. A third knew Bush, who has made cutting taxes part of his agenda since 2000, favors eliminating the estate tax. Forty-seven percent knew Bush supports allowing workers to direct some of their Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts. When it comes to which candidate approves of using federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, 54 percent knew it was Kerry. Less than half -- 49 percent -- knew Kerry supports eliminating tax breaks on U.S. corporations' overseas profits.

Kate Kenski, a senior research analyst at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, blamed the misperceptions on the candidates' focus on Iraq and the news media's emphasis on the "horse race." But, she said, there is hope: "Debates are the first opportunity where people can actually see the candidates side by side. So, hopefully, that will clarify some of these mismatches."

Gays Not Sad to See Lawmaker Go

Rep. Thomas M. Finneran (D), the controversial speaker of the Massachusetts House, resigned to take a high-paying position as head of a local biotechnology industry group.

He departs amid a federal investigation into his role in redrawing legislative districts that allegedly favor incumbents and dilute the strength of minority voters. He insisted that the probe had no role in his departure and that he was leaving on his terms.

Finneran, whom colleagues describe as brilliant and imperious, has a reputation for social conservatism that was illustrated by his strong opposition to the state high court ruling last year that legalized same-sex marriage. During a constitutional convention this winter, he was one of the most outspoken proponents of an amendment banning same-sex marriage that passed an initial hurdle but requires approval from the legislature and Massachusetts voters.

In his last official act as speaker, Finneran, who represents Boston's Mattapan neighborhood, called for a Wednesday session, where legislators elected Salvatore F. DiMasi, a 25-year lawmaker from the city's North End, as Finneran's successor.

Gay-rights advocates said they hope Finneran's departure -- and the elevation of DiMasi, who supports same-sex marriage -- will undermine the amendment when it is reconsidered in 2006. Meanwhile, proponents of the measure have promised to increase their efforts.

"His leaving won't by itself change votes," said Arline Isaacson, who heads the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. "But having a new speaker who supports us will be strongly to our advantage."

When in Doubt, Google

"Join the African Americans team," urges the headline on the African American page of the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site. In addition to photos and articles, the page lists members of the African American national steering committee, headed by former congressman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.). A reporter who called the campaign media office to find out how to reach Watts for an interview was told, "We are not at liberty to give that information out."

The media aide said it should not be hard to find Watts and suggested that the reporter "Google him."

Staff writer Vanessa Williams contributed to this report.