This post is hypocritical. I always denounce national polling as nothing to seriously consider, and back all my opinions up with state polling or predicted ground trends. I still maintain this – that state polling is more important that national polling, that state-by-state analysis is more important that national ‘trends’. But I couldn’t not write about the latest ABC/Washington Post national poll – the one that has Obama up by 9%: 52% to 43%.
Don’t interpret my italics as over-the-top excitement: In reality, this poll merely reflects something I and other people with their eyes on the ground have been expecting for some time now. I’ve never stated that Obama would lose, I have only said he will win. This might turn out to be ignorance, arrogance, over-confidence, or completely right. Either way, I’m sticking to my guns.
Returning to the poll, there are some important numbers to take out to see how big issues are having a broad affect on voters. Big issues like, say, an economy sinking faster than Jimmy Hoffa wearing lead boots. In 3 weeks, there’s been a shift away from McCain to the tune of 11% overall – he was leading at 2% that long ago. But that’s hardly the worse change in numbers. No sir, not even near.
On the question ‘Who is more ready to handle a crisis?’, McCain previously dominated and dominated big. In the latest poll, the candidates are tied. So much for all that campaigning on portraying Obama as a risk and know-nothing. And McCain used to own the ‘Who is the stronger leader?’ category – the latest number has Obama at 47%, McCain at 46%. On the question ‘Who is more likely to bring change?’, Obama leads 58% to 33%. ‘Who better understands economic problems?’ Obama 57%, McCain 33%. ‘Who is more honest and trustworthy?’ Obama 47%, McCain 36%.’Who is best to handle the Iraq War?’, the lead has gone to Obama with a 14% swing to him for a 4% advantage. ‘Who is best to handle issues of terrorism?’ McCain still leads, but by a tiny (when compared to his 20%+ leads prior) 4%.
People were questioned on their opinions on Sarah Palin. When she was first announced, her favourables were through the roof – the most popular candidate on the circuit. Now, they have hit rock-bottom. White Catholics, white women, moderates, and independents have all registered a drop in their approval of her – these being the key groups McCain hoped to win over, and needed to win over in some states. This was the risk in picking someone from the hard-right fringe. She was always going to struggle with independents with some of her views, and the evidence is showing up now.
There’s been a 1% drop in the number of Republicans who describe themselves as ‘very enthusiastic’ – from 48% to 36% – while Obama’s number has remained at a high 62%. A record high of 48% say that McCain’s age is a concern for them, with 63% of those 48%-ers saying they will vote Obama and 32% going for McCain.
The final big shifts come from a variety of groups. A 13% shift back to Obama for white women, giving him a 2% lead now. A 16% swing to Obama for married women, giving him a 5% lead. A 20% swing to Obama for white Catholics, giving him a 1% lead. And huge, a 24% swing to Obama for independents, giving him a 14% lead. If nothing else, the 14% lead among independents, if it were to translate into that much of a lead state-to-state, gives him the election with 82% of Democrats, 90% of African-Americans, 40% whites, and 60% Hispanic/Latino. Yet, we will see Obama get more than each of these numbers come election day, so the number of independent votes he needs to get can drop. If it doesn’t, all the more electoral votes for Obama.
These numbers will scare the bajeebers out of McCain. Expect him to come out attacking and attacking hard at the debates. He will have a slight advantage in that a lot of it will focus on foreign policy. Though I would also put a bet that Obama will try and draw the issues back to economy and broad issues, where he wins. Obama isn’t as strong as McCain on foreign policy (though don’t sell him sort), so he will be trying to change the field as best he can to suit his game.