Opinion: New Times poll gives Obama 9-point lead over McCain among likely voters


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On the eve of the final 2008 presidential debate, the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden holds an eight-point lead among 1,446 registered voters and a nine-point lead among 1,030 likely voters, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News poll.

Still no majority for anyone though.

It’s 49-41 over John McCain-Sarah Palin among registered voters and 50-41 among likely voters.

The economy by far is the dominant factor on voters’ minds, but if there was an international crisis, they’d trust McCain more. Gov. Palin’s support-distaste is almost a wash.


Past debates have generally proven to be game-changers only when one side makes a huge gaffe, like Gerald Ford over Poland, although Walter Mondale later said he knew he’d lost in 1984 when Pres. Ronald Reagan made his famous remark about not holding his opponent’s youth against him.

McCain’s other hope to change the momentum is for ...

... some kind of foreign policy challenge to knock the public debate subject off the economy and onto foreign policy experience.

The new poll results also show voters’ positions hardening, like cement, with 89% of both registered and likely voters ‘certain’ of their vote, along with 96% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats.

When third-party candidates such as Bob Barr and Ralph Nader are added to the polling mix, the results change little. It’s 47-39 Obama over McCain among registered voters and 48-39 among likely voters, with Nader capturing a non-decisive 3% of vote and Barr only 1%.

As we’ve seen all campaign, the Democrat holds an enthusiasm advantage among his party’s supporters with 92% of Democrats enthusiastic about Obama and 68% very enthusiastic vs. 72% of Republicans enthusiastic over their standard bearer and 35% very enthusiastic.

Asked about their congressional party voting inclinations at this time, registered voters went 45-39 Democrat.

No surprise here: On the dominant issue it’s 69% economy across the board with the No. 2 issue, the Iraq war, far behind at 27% for Democrats and 18% for Republicans. Healthcare, No. 3, is 19% among Democrats and 4% among GOP voters.


On positive feelings toward the top candidates, it’s a little closer: Obama gets 53% of registered voters vs McCain’s 47%.

And even closer on negative feelings, 34% for Obama and 39% McCain.

Among registered voters, they’re about evenly divided in positive-negative feelings over Gov. Palin, 43-42.

But, interestingly, despite all the explosive publicity and negative counterattacks on her, the governor’s impact on voting preferences is almost even; 27% say they’re less likely to vote for McCain with her and 22% more likely.

Does Obama have the right experience to become president? Narrowly, registered voters now say yes, 49-42.

McCain is way ahead in that category among registered voters; 80% say yes and only 14% say no.

Twenty-three percent of respondents still feel they do not know enough about Obama, while only 15% say that about McCain.


Registered voters feel McCain has the best chance of achieving success in Iraq (49-38), while Obama gets the nod on the economy (48-36). McCain wins (48-39) in handling an international crisis while Obama ‘cares more about people like you’ (47-31).

Obama’s attack that McCain would be a continuation of President Bush’s policies seems to be sticking, 52% now agree vs. 42% disagree.

Eight percent of registered voters say Obama’s race gives them reservations about voting for him. Ninety percent say it’s not an issue.

The complete Times print story is available here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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