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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Polls - Everybody's got one

I noticed several postings on the Indiana Blogwire today regarding polls that spelled gloom and doom for Barack Obama. Now I know, like most of you, that the only poll that matters is the one that happens on election day. But I thought I'd share some highlights from another poll released today by Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg:

  • The survey found the New York senator leading Barack Obama by just 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania, which votes next Tuesday. Such a margin would not give her much of a boost in the battle for the party's nomination.

  • What is more, the poll found Clinton trails Obama by 5 points in Indiana, another Rust Belt state that should play to her strengths among blue-collar voters.

  • In North Carolina, an Obama stronghold, he is running 13 points ahead.

The poll interviewed 623 voters in Pennsylvania, 687 in Indiana and 691 in North Carolina who were expected to cast Democratic ballots. The margin of sampling error for the findings in each state is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The telephone interviews took place Thursday through Monday, meaning the bulk were conducted just as controversy broke out over the Obama "bitterness" remark that was widely criticized as demeaning rural voters in Pennsylvania. He suggested that for some residents of small towns, their commitment to gun rights, religious faith and hostility toward foreign trade had its roots in their "bitterness" about economic hardships.

Voters were also asked about the controversy that has dogged the candidate in recent weeks: racially incendiary comments made by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., the now-retired pastor of Obama's church in Chicago. The furor prodded Obama to deliver a major speech on racial relations in America last month. In Pennsylvania, the flap seems to have marginally helped Obama more than hurt him: 24% said his handling of the issue made them think more highly of him; 15% said it made them think less highly of him; 58% said it made no difference in their views. And women voters are defecting:

One reason Clinton is struggling in Indiana and North Carolina is that a mainstay of her coalition in earlier contests -- women -- have been defecting. In Indiana, the poll found women split their vote, 35% for each candidate. In North Carolina, they favored Obama, 43% to 36%.

Looking ahead to the general election, many Democrats -- including some Clinton backers -- appear to have concluded that Obama might be in a better position to defeat McCain. In Indiana, for instance, 37% said they thought Obama would fare better against McCain in November, compared to 18% who said Clinton was more likely to beat the Republican.

"I would prefer Clinton, but Obama has less baggage to throw darts at," said Eric Beiz, a realtor in Indianapolis. "She is going to have a tough time."

Clinton also suffers from being seen as less admirable than Obama. Even in Pennsylvania, 47% of Democrats said he had more honesty and integrity, compared to 26% who thought that of Clinton.

"She doesn't tell the truth a lot," said Brannon Crace, a store manager in Frankfurt, Ind. "We've already been through the Clinton era."

In all three states, Clinton was seen as better equipped to handle trade and healthcare policy. But she does not appear to have been as persuasive in making a core argument of her campaign -- that she would be better prepared to lead the nation's military and foreign policy.

Asked who would be better as commander in chief, voters in North Carolina chose Obama, 45% to 28%; in Indiana, Obama was chosen 37% to 29%. Only in Pennsylvania did voters prefer Clinton as commander in chief, 44% to 39%.

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