Daily Tracking Poll: Bush Effect Impedes McCain; Fewer Than Half See 'New Direction'

CHANGE – As reported Thursday morning, after a year positioning himself as the change candidate, Obama owns the issue: Likely voters by 60-34 percent say he'd do more than McCain to bring needed change to Washington. That's roughly where they've been since March, with the exception of a 51-39 percent result just after the Republican convention, a gain for McCain that didn't hold.

That result is another that conjures up the 1992 election. Clinton held a 25-point lead over George H. W. Bush on who'd do the best job "bringing needed changes," almost identical to Obama's 26-point lead today.

On leadership overall, though, it's a far closer call: Likely voters divide, 49-46 percent, Obama-McCain, on who's the stronger leader. That's better for McCain than Obama's 56-39 percent lead on this question Oct. 11; but worse than McCain's best, a 53-40 percent lead back in March. McCain surely sought better given his campaign's focus on experience and judgment.

Beyond Republicans and conservatives, McCain does best on leadership with evangelical white Protestants (72 percent pick him as the stronger leader than Obama) and rural voters (59 percent). But it's closer in some other groups, such as whites (53 percent) and men (51 percent).

Views on change are more lopsided; just Republicans, conservatives and evangelical white Protestants pick McCain over Obama as best to bring needed change. Rural voters divide by 47-41 percent, Obama-McCain. Obama's preferred on change by 54 percent of whites, and, in the political center, by 58 percent of independents.

GROUPS – The tracking poll allows a look at some smaller groups in the likely voter population. Hispanics are one – 13 percent of all adults (including non-citizens), they account for 6 percent of likely voters, about their share of the turnout in 2004.

As in past years Hispanics are somewhat less engaged politically: While 83 percent of whites and 82 percent of blacks report being registered to vote, that declines to 67 percent of Hispanics. (Again that includes non-citizens, who are ineligible to register.) Moreover, among registereds, 63 percent of blacks and 59 percent of whites are following the election very closely; among Hispanics that declines to 45 percent.

At the same time, Hispanic likely voters are far more likely to identify themselves as first-time voters – 31 percent do so, compared with 19 percent of blacks and 9 percent of whites.

As far as vote preference, using aggregate tracking data over the past 14 nights, Hispanics favor Obama over McCain by a wide 69-28 percent, very much like their Democratic vs. Republican vote for House seats in 2006 (69-30 percent) and similar to Clinton's 72 percent support from Hispanics in 1996. Al Gore won 62 percent of Hispanics in 2000, John Kerry 58 percent in 2004, though a less-reliable 2004 exit poll figure of 53 percent often is reported.

A smaller group, Jews, accounts for just 2 percent of likely voters nationally; usually a Democratic group, they favor Obama over McCain by 70-29 percent, similar to John Kerry's 74-25 percent in 2004.

Among other groups, Obama's maintaining his large advantage, 63-36 percent, among first-time voters, who account for one in eight likely voters, roughly the same as their share in 2004. He does well in this group largely because they're disproportionately young, and young likely voters are among Obama's strongest supporters, at 64-33 percent. Among voters over 30, it's a 50-46 percent race.

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