Wednesday, August 13, 2008

McCain Best in Crisis, Poll Finds

The new Pew survey finds the presidential election horse race essentially tied, with Barack Obama holding a 46-to-43 percent lead over presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.

The results are within the poll's statistical margin of error. What's noteworthy is that the survey finds a majority of Americans seeing McCain as possessing superior crisis decision-making judgment:

With less than two weeks to go before the start of the presidential nominating conventions, Barack Obama's lead over John McCain has disappeared. Pew's latest survey finds 46% of registered voters saying they favor or lean to the putative Democratic candidate, while 43% back his likely Republican rival. In late June, Obama held a comfortable 48%-to-40% margin over McCain, which narrowed in mid-July to 47% to 42%.

Two factors appear to be at play in shifting voter sentiment. First, McCain is garnering more support from his base - including Republicans and white evangelical Protestants - than he was in June, and he also has steadily gained backing from white working class voters over this period. Secondly and more generally, the Arizona senator has made gains on his leadership image. An even greater percentage of voters than in June now see McCain as the candidate who would use the best judgment in a crisis, and an increasing percentage see him as the candidate who can get things done.

Conversely, Obama has made little progress in increasing his support among core Democrats since June - currently 83% favor him compared with 87% of Republicans who back McCain. The likely Democratic nominee is still getting relatively modest support from Hillary Clinton's former supporters: 72% of them support Obama, compared with the 88% support level that McCain receives from backers of his formal GOP rivals.
I've noted that the Democrats have reason to worry about thier electoral fortunes this fall. Recent polling has shown McCain with a double-digit lead over Obama on cultural issues and traditional values. Now, with the Pew data, we see Obama with increasing liabilities among Southern whites and the white working class (folks with less than a four-year collegiate education).

Captain Ed notes, "Obama needs a momentum reversal, and he needs it quickly."