Research Impacts - Polls

Presidential Race: Dead-Heat Among Women; Palin Pick Boosts McCain

Release Date: 9/16/2008
 
By Seth Brohinsky and Mark Schulman, Abt SRBI

Female voters now split evenly between Barack Obama (48%) and John McCain (47%) following McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, according to the latest Time poll of 1,008 female likely voters.

The poll was conducted September 11 - 15. McCain trailed Obama among women by 10 points in Time's preconvention poll.

Women voters have been a key Democratic party constituency in recent Presidential elections. Al Gore had a 5 point edge over George Bush in 2000, while John Kerry had a narrower 3 point edge over Bush in 2004, according to the exit polls. Women were 54% of voters in 2004.

If the presidential election were held today, and the candidates were Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the Democrats, and John McCain and Sarah Palin, the Republicans, and you had to chose,
for whom would you vote?

BASE: Likely Female Voters      
 

Firm
Support
(%)

"Leaning"
(Base:
Undecided
/ Unsure
registered
likely
female
voters)(%)

Total
Support
(%)

Obama/Biden

46

29

48

McCain/Palin

45

32

47

Other Candidate

1

1

1

Undecided

9

1

3


More than 1 in 4 women (28%) report that they decided on their vote choice during or after the political conventions. McCain captured 31% of his female supporters during or after the convention. Obama gained support of a lesser 25% during the convention period.

Obama Underperforming Among Specific Female Demographics

Obama is having a difficult time attracting key segments of the female electorate.

  • A majority (50%) of middle aged women, age 35 - 54, support McCain.
  • The gap widens among so-called "Wal-Mart Moms" - white women, ages 45-64, with no college education - where McCain leads Obama by 18 points, 59% to 41%.
  • McCain holds a 14 point advantage over Obama among White women (55% to 41%). In 2004, Bush won white women by a narrower 11 point margin.
    • Obama still holds a commanding 82 point advantage among Black women (89% to 7%).
  • Among married women, McCain leads by 17 point over Obama (56% to 39%).

Obama is also facing defections among Democrats. Fourteen percent of female Democrats say they will vote for McCain compared to just 8% of Republicans who say they will vote for Obama.


If the presidential election were held today, and the candidates were Barack Obama
and Joe Biden, the Democrats, and John McCain and Sarah Palin, the Republicans,
and you had to chose, for whom would you vote? (Leaners included)

BASE: Likely Female Voters        
 

Support
Obama/Biden

Support
McCain/Palin

Other
Candidate

Undecided

18 - 34 (%)

56

44

--

--

35 - 54 (%)

45

50

1

3

55 and older (%)

49

45

1

5

Wal-Mart Moms (%)

41

59

--

--

White (%)

41

55

1

3

Black (%)

89

7

1

3

Hispanic (%)

50

46

--

4

Republican (%)

8

89

1

2

Democrat (%)

84

14

1

2

Independent (%)

46

46

2

6


The Sarah Palin Effect

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate surprised many pundits and has generated much debate. The choice appears to have helped McCain close the gender gap against Obama for a few reasons:

  • Nearly one-third (32%) of women say Plain has made them more likely to vote for McCain; compared to just 17% who said the same of Joe Biden, Barack Obama's choice for Vice President.
    • The choice of Palin has also helped sway Clinton supporters. A quarter (23%) of Clinton supports said the choice of Sarah Palin made them more likely to vote for McCain.
  • A majority (55%) of women have a favorable opinion of Palin.
    • They sight her personal qualities (42%) more so than her positions on specific issues (33%) as the reason they view her favorably.
  • More women feel they know enough about Sarah Palin to make up their mind about the candidate (65%) than Joe Biden (59%).
    • Additionally, somewhat more women identify with the everyday life experiences of Sarah Palin (64%) than Obama (58%), McCain (53%) or Biden (48%).

The Palin Paradox

While it appears that Sarah Palin has helped McCain attract female voters, there are signs the support may fade. More women see Joe Biden as the Vice Presidential candidate better prepared to take over the presidency on day one (54%) than Palin (37%). They also see Biden as better prepared to be Commander-in-Chief (54%) than Palin (36%).

Additionally, many female voters disagree with a number of Sarah Palin's positions on important issues.

  • Nearly seven in ten women (69%) disagree with Palin's position on global warming.
    • Almost all Clinton supporters (94%) feel this way.
  • Two-thirds of women (65%) disagree with Palin on abortion rights.
    • Including 88% of Clinton supporters.
  • A majority (52%) of women and three-quarters (76%) of Clinton supporters disagree with Palin on her support for the Iraq War.

Please tell me whether you personally agree or disagree with Sarah Palin's positions on the following issues.

Summary of Disagree    
BASE: Likely Female Voters    
 

Total
Disagree
(%)

Supported Hillary
Clinton and Disagree
(%)

She does not believe that
global warming is caused
by humans

69

94

She opposes abortion in all
cases, including rape and
incest, except when the
mother's life is in danger

65

88

Palin supports the war in
Iraq

52

76

Palin supports teaching of
both creationism and
evolution in public schools

40

58

She favors more drilling for
oil and gas, including in the
Arctic Wildlife Refuge

39

54

Palin supports the right to
bear arms, including
handguns

34

42


Women Maintain Loyal to Down-Ticket Democrats

While the Presidential race tightens, women still remain loyal to the Democratic Party

  • A wider margin (49% to 46%) say they would favor the Democratic nominee over a Republican nominee regardless of who the candidates are.
  • Women overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate for Congress in the district where they live; 48% support the Democrat and 37% support the Republican.

Methodology

This Time Magazine poll was conducted by telephone September 11 - 15, 2008 among a national random sample (RDD) of 1,008 likely female voters, age 18 and older throughout America. The poll includes limited interviews with cell phone respondents.

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: 37%
  • Republicans: 30%
  • Independents: 26%

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

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