Research Impacts - Polls

Obama Maintains Slim Lead

Release Date: 8/5/2008
 
By Seth Brohinsky and Mark Schulman, Abt SRBI

Several weeks of charges and countercharges between the rival candidates have little changed the Presidential race. Democrat Barack Obama holds only a slim 46% - 41% lead over John McCain among likely voters, with 10% undecided, according the latest national Time Magazine Poll, conducted July 31 - August 4.

A late June Time Poll found Obama ahead by the same margin,43% - 38%.  Without those "leaning" to either candidate, Obama still holds a 6-point lead over his Republican rival, 43% - 37%, with 17% undecided.
 

And what if the candidates in the November election were Barack Obama and John McCain, and you had to choose, for which of these candidates would you vote?
Base: Registered likely voters

 

Firm Support (%)

"Leaning Support"
(%)

(Base: Undecided /
Unsure registered
likely voters)

Total Support
Including "Leaners"
(%)

Barack Obama

43

19

46

John McCain

37

20

41

Other Candidate

3

1

3

Undecided/Don't know

17

58

10


Democratic Primary Scars Healing

The poll finds some evidence that Obama has been able to heal the scars from the hard-fought Democratic primary battle.

  • Female voters, who Obama had difficulty courting in the Democratic Primary, favor Obama (49%) by a widening margin over McCain (39%). In late June, females split almost evenly between the candidates, 45% for Obama, 44% for McCain.
  • Just one-in-ten Democrats (13%) say they will vote or are leaning toward McCain in the general election, unchanged from last month.

McCain Underperforming Among Males and Whites

McCain continues to face challenges with males -- a traditional Republican constituency. Obama and McCain are even among male voters, 43%-43%. Bush won 55% of the male vote in 2004, according to the NEP exit polls.

McCain's lead among white voters is just 7 points, 47% - 40%. In 2004, however, Bush swept the white vote 58% - 41% over Kerry, according to the exit polls.

  • Black votes overwhelmingly support Obama, 85% - 6%.

And what if the candidates in the November election were Barack Obama and John McCain, and you had to choose, for which of these candidates would you vote?
Base: Registered likely voters

 

Total Support
Including "Leaners"
(%)

White
(%)

Black
(%)

Republican
(%)

Democrat
(%)

Independent
(%)

Barack Obama

46

40

85

10

77

47

John McCain

41

47

6

80

13

37

Other Candidate

3

3

1

2

1

4

Undecided/Don't know

10

10

8

8

8

11


Change vs. Terrorism Threat

The head-to-head comparisons between Obama and McCain on various issues indicate that the election could be won or lost depending upon which issues trump the others. Voters believe Obama, more so than McCain, is the candidate of "change" as well as the most likeable. McCain drubs Obama on combating terrorism. On the top issue of the day, handling the economy, the Democrat holds only a slim lead over his Republican rival, little changed from last month.

Obama's strengths over McCain hinge on his likeability and his edge on handling the economy, the number one issue right now.

  • Most likeable: Obama tops McCain, 65% - 20%.
  • The real candidate of change: Obama over McCain, 61% - 17%.
  • Best understands concerns of people like myself: Obama beats McCain, 48% - 35%.
  • Best able to handle the economy, Obama over McCain by a slim 43% - 39%.
  • Following Obama's multi-nation tour to buff up his foreign policy credentials, voters choose Obama over McCain, 52% - 33%, as the candidate best able to restore America's image in the world.

McCain's overwhelms Obama by 27 points in combating terrorism, 56% - 29%. He also leads Obama in handling the situation in Iraq, 51% - 36%.
 

Which candidate would best be described by each of the following statements...
Base: Registered likely voters

 

Barack
Obama
(%)

John
McCain
(%)

Net
Difference
(%)

Not Sure /
Don't
know (%)

Is the most likeable

65

20

45

6

Best understands the concerns of people like myself

48

35

13

5

Would best protect the U.S. against terrorism

29

56

27

7

Best be able to handle the economy

43

39

4

8

Would best handle the situation in Iraq

36

51

15

7

Would best be able to restore America's
image in theworld

52

33

19

7

Who shares your values

41

39

2

4

Is most guided by his religious beliefs

30

28

2

27

Is the candidate who switches his positions for
political reasons

40

26

14

15

Is the real candidate of change

61

17

44

7


The Bush Effect

Two-thirds (66%) of voters disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job, with only 29% approving his performance. Yet, one in five (20%) "disapprovers" support McCain in the general election.

  • One quarter (24%) of the male "disapprovers" support McCain.
  • Nearly the same percentage (23%) of Independent "disapprovers" support McCain. 

Methodology

This Time Magazine poll was conducted by telephone July 31 - August 4, 2008 among a national random sample of 808 likely voters, age 18 and older throughout America.

The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error, and respondent error.

The sample's partisan distribution is as follows:

  • Democrats: 35%
  • Republicans: 27%
  • Independents: 30%

Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing.

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