Research Impacts - Polls

Presidential Race: Obama Maintains Lead Over McCain; Economic Concerns Erode McCain Support

Release Date: 10/7/2008
 

By Seth Brohinsky and Mark Schulman, Abt SRBI

As economic conditions in America continue to worsen and the campaign rhetoric heats up, Barack Obama has maintained a six point lead over rival John McCain, 50% - 44%, among likely voters in the most recent national Time Magazine Poll, conducted

October 3 - 6.

Obama's lead has remained stable since last week, when he was up by 7 points, 50% - 43%. He has rebounded sharply from post-convention polls in early September.
 

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 choose, for whom would you vote?

Base: Likely voters      
 

Firm Support
(%)

"Leaning
Support" (%)

(Base: Undecided /
Unsure likely voters)

Total Support
(%)

Obama/Biden

48

26

50

McCain/Palin

43

16

44

Other Candidate

2

1

2

Undecided

7

56

4


Women, Middle-Age Shift to Obama

Barack Obama has made significant inroads among women and middle-age voters.

  • Obama now leads McCain by 19 points among likely female voters, 56% to 37%. Just after the Republican convention, a Time poll had the race virtually tied among women, 48% Obama, 47% McCain.
  • Obama has opened a slight lead among white women, 48% to 45%. In 2004 Bush won the vote of white women by 11 points, 55%-44%, according to the exit polls.
  • Obama also leads among married women, 51% - 42%. Bush carried married women by 15 points in 2004, 57%-42%.

Females by Vote Choice

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 choose, for whom would you vote?

Base: Likely voters      
 

Total
Support
(%)

Women
(%)

White
Women
(%)

Married
Women
(%)

Obama/Biden

50

56

48

51

McCain/Palin

44

37

45

42

Other Candidate

2

2

2

2

Undecided

4

5

5

6


  • Shrinking IRAs and 401ks and other economic woes may be responsible for Obama's seven point lead, 51% to 44%, among middle-age voters (ages 35 - 54). McCain and Obama tied among this group in August.
  • Independent voters favor Obama by 6 points over McCain (49% to 43%).

Economic Downturn Lifting Obama

Six in ten (61%) voters say their current economic situation is worse than 12 months ago and 84% saying the country is off on the wrong track.

  • Among voters who feel their current economic situation is "worse," Obama holds a substantial 28-point lead over McCain (60% to 32%).
    • McCain leads among voters who feel their economic situation is the "same" (60% to 36%) or "better" (71% to 21%) than 12 months ago.
Economic Situation by Vote Choice

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 choose, for whomwould you vote?

Base: Likely voters   Personal Economic Situation. . .
 

Total
Support
(%)

"Better"
(%)

"Worse"
(%)

"Same"
(%)

Obama/Biden

50

21

60

36

McCain/Palin

44

71

32

60

Other Candidate

2

7

2

1

Undecided

4

2

5

3


Obama (46%), more so than McCain (40%), is seen as the candidate who can better handle the current financial problems. The reason most view Obama as better suited to handle the economic crisis may be his ability to remain clam under pressure.

  • Just 28% of voters say Obama can get angry under pressure, compared to 60% who say the same of McCain.

Favorability Ratings

Among the four candidates running for office this November, Barack Obama (56%) is viewed most favorably by voters. Palin receives the lowest ratings.

  • 54% view Joe Biden favorably
  • 50% view John McCain favorably
  • 45% view Sarah Palin favorably
Favorability Ratings

Now I'd like to get your feelings toward the people running for office and
some governmental institutions on a scale of zero to 100, something like
a thermometer. If you feel favorably warm toward that person, you can
rate them between 51 and 100. If you feel unfavorable or cold toward that
person, you can rate them from zero to 49. If you don't feel particularly
favorable or unfavorable, you can rate them a 50.

Base: Likely voters      
 

Summary of
"Favorable"
(51-100)
(%)

Summary of
"Unfavorable"
(0-49)
(%)

Favorability
Net
(%)

Your Local Government

58

19

39

Barack Obama

56

36

20

Joe Biden

54

31

23

Your State Government

51

29

22

Your Congressman

51

24

27

The Supreme Court

50

23

27

John McCain

50

38

12

Sarah Palin

45

44

1

The U.S. Congress

31

44

-13

President Bush

29

61

-32

McCain Seen as Strong Leader; Obama as Candidate of Change

Many of the traditional labels of this presidential campaign still apply. Most voters view McCain as the experienced, strong leader and Obama as the compassionate, change agent...

  • McCain, more than Obama, is seen as...
    • The strong leader (McCain 68% vs. Obama 60%).
    • Strong moral character (McCain 74% vs. Obama 63%).
  • Obama is viewed as being more compassionate than McCain...
    • Cares about people like me (Obama 62% vs. McCain 51%).
    • A unifier who works well with others (Obama 63% vs. McCain 59%).

Obama is still viewed as the real candidate of change in the upcoming election
(Obama 60% vs. McCain 37%).

Candidate Characteristics

How well do each of the following describe...

Base: Likely voters    
 

Barack Obama (%)

John McCain (%)

Strong moral character

63

74

Can get angry under pressure

28

60

Cares about people like me

62

51

Strong leader

60

68

A unifier who works well with others

63

59

Is the real candidate of change

60

37


Biden Tops in VP Debate, But Has Limited Impact

Almost 9 in 10 voters (86%) said they watched the Vice-Presidential debate last Thursday night.

  • Most (50%) felt Joe Biden came out the winner, 31% said Sarah Palin won, and 18% said neither candidate won.

Although a majority felt Biden won, just 3% of those who watched the debate said it made them change their mind about which presidential candidate they will vote for. Almost all (97%) said the debate did not influence them one way or the other.

Biden Prepared to Be President; Palin Not Prepared

The debate appears to have done little to boost voters' confidence in Palin. More than 8 in 10 voters, 81%, say that Biden would be prepared to assume the presidency, should that be necessary. Only 41% of voters see Palin as prepared, with a majority, 54% saying that she is not prepared.

  • About 2 in 3 McCain supporters (65%) say Biden is prepared. 

Methodology

This Time Magazine poll was conducted by telephone October 3 - 6, 2008 among a national random sample (RDD) of 1,053 likely voters, age 18 and older throughout America. The poll includes limited interviews with cell phone respondents. Likely voters are identified based upon their registration status, self-reported likelihood to vote, interest in the campaign, and previous voting record, unless a new registrant. Voters who "early voted" are included in the likely voter pool.

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: 29%
  • Independents: 27%

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

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