A little polling background for the debate tonight:
-Americans are in an epic snit. In a Gallup poll completed Sunday only 9 percent said they’re satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, the fewest since Gallup first asked the question in 1979. Ninety percent are dissatisfied. The only election year since 1984 in which satisfaction was even close to this low was in 1992, but even then it bottomed out higher, 14 percent, and earlier, in June.
-Sixty-nine percent named some aspect of the economy when asked the most important problem facing the country. In our own national ABC/Post poll last week, 53 percent called it the single most important issue in their vote choice, with all other mentions in the single digits.
-Also in Gallup’s data, 25 percent approved of the president’s job performance, a new Bush low for Gallup, while 70 percent disapproved. That’s very much like the 26-70 percent in our ABC/Post poll last week.
-This is not a hold-your-nose election; majorities of Americans have a favorable opinion of McCain and Obama alike – 55 percent and 62 percent respectively in the Gallup poll. That may make it a hard decision for swing voters not rooted in partisanship. (McCain’s favorable rating is the same as Bush’s at about this time in 2004; Obama’s is 10 points better than John Kerry’s.)
-As reported in our last two national polls and our Ohio poll yesterday, economic concerns have turned the dynamic in Obama’s favor; he leads McCain in better understanding the economic problems Americans are having and, by extension, in trust to deal with the issue. Obama’s also built back to a 2-1 lead in trust to “bring needed change” to Washington. But he’s still dogged by the experience question, a continued opening for McCain. McCain, on the other hand, is even more dogged by the suspicion he’d be a Bush retread.
-This dynamic has pushed Obama into leading status in most (not all) national polls, and competitive or leading status in many battleground states. In airworthy state polls just out today, he’s +10 in Pennsylvania, +8 in New Hampshire, +7 in Nevada, +5 in Wisconsin and dead even in North Carolina. Yesterday we ourselves had him +6 in Ohio.
Advantage Obama – but with 19 percent of likely voters still movable.