Poll: Obama Maintains Comfortable Lead

By: CBS
By: CBS

(CBS) With less than one week until Election Day, Barack Obama maintains a clear lead over John McCain in the presidential race, a new CBS News/New York Times poll suggests. The Democratic nominee now leads his Republican rival by 11 percentage points, 52 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters nationwide.

A small percentage of these voters could still switch sides: The figures include both firm supporters of each candidate and those who lean towards one or the other but have not fully committed. These so-called leaners, however, make up less than 10 percent of each candidate's support, a sign that significant movement in the campaign's final days is not likely. Just five percent of the likely voters surveyed remain completely undecided.

Seventeen percent of registered voters say they have already voted, either by absentee ballot or at early voting sites, and this group favors Obama by a large margin. The 13 percent of registered voters casting ballots for the first time favor Obama over McCain by two-to-one.

Intense feelings surround the prospect of either candidate being elected. Fifty-seven percent of likely McCain voters say they are scared about Obama becoming president, while 47 percent of Obama voters are scared of a McCain presidency.

The McCain voters who are scared of an Obama presidency feel uneasy about the Illinois senator’s ability to handle an international crisis, and they do not think he shares the values of most Americans. These voters are more likely to older, and many are evangelical Christians.

Obama voters scared of McCain becoming president think the Arizona senator does not understand their needs and problems. These voters are more likely to be women, and liberal, and about a quarter of them are African American.

An enthusiasm gap remains between the candidates: While roughly half of Obama's supporters are excited about their candidate being elected, just 22 percent of McCain voters feel the same.

More than half of both Obama and McCain's supporters say it is "extremely" important their candidate become president, and an additional third say it is "very" important.

Positions On The Issues:

Most registered voters believe that both Obama and McCain could work with the opposition party, with 70 percent arguing that Obama could reach across the aisle and 66 percent saying McCain could.

But on the economy - the most important issue to a majority of voters in making a choice for president - Obama has a clear advantage. A majority of registered voters say Obama's policies would make the economy better, while half as many say they would make the economy worse. By contrast, nearly as many expect McCain's policies to make the economy worse (31 percent) as expect his policies to make the economy better (32 percent).

Low income voters, in particular, expect Obama's policies to help the economy and McCain's to make things worse.

McCain does have a slight edge when it comes to raising taxes, a topic he has focused on in recent weeks. Fifty percent of those surveyed expect Obama to raise the taxes of people like them, while 46 percent expect McCain to do so. Vast majorities believe Obama would raise taxes on big business and McCain would not.

Sixty-six percent believe an Obama administration would result in more Americans having health care. Just 23 percent think this would happen in a McCain administration.

A majority believe McCain's policies would lead to more U.S. involvement in Iraq. Eighty percent say Obama's policies would result in less involvement with the country.

Voters continue to have a positive impression of Obama, whose favorable rating stands at 51 percent. His unfavorable rating is 34 percent.

Nearly two-in-three believe the Democratic nominee shares Americans' values, understands their needs and problems, and would be an effective Commander in Chief.

In one area where Obama has a perceived weakness, experience, he has crossed an important threshold: Fifty-one percent say the Illinois senator is prepared to be president. When it comes to dealing with an international crisis, however, more uneasiness remains: While forty-seven percent are confident that Obama could handle a crisis, 50 percent are not.

McCain has no problems when it comes to experience: Sixty-seven percent say he is prepared to be president. But less than half of the registered voters surveyed say he understands their needs and problems, and on the question of handling an international crisis - ostensibly a strength - his numbers are not much better than Obama's.

McCain is widely seen as likely to be an effective Commander in Chief, and 64 percent of Americans believe he shares their values. While his favorable/unfavorable rating has improved slightly, it remains in negative territory, with 41 percent viewing the Arizona senator favorably and 43 percent unfavorably.

Obama's efforts to tie McCain to unpopular Republican president George W. Bush appear to be resonating: Fifty-three percent expect the GOP nominee to continue Mr. Bush's policies. Forty-one percent do not.

A third of voters saying the vice presidential nominees will factor in their vote, and here the Democrats have the edge: While 74 percent say Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden is prepared to be vice president, just 35 percent say GOP counterpart Sarah Palin is prepared for the job.

Voter Confidence, New And Uncommitted Voters, And Demographics:

Seventy-six percent of voters have at least some confidence that votes in their state will be counted properly. Nine percent have no confidence they will be counted fairly.

About a third of all voters are at least somewhat concerned that they will encounter problems that might prevent them from voting or prevent their vote from being counted accurately.

These results are similar to what was found four years ago, though Americans have become slightly more distrustful of the process.

New voters, a group that composes 13 percent of registered voters surveyed, favor Obama 60 percent to 31 percent. Seventy-one percent of these voters are between the ages of 18 and 29, and 25 percent are black. Forty-six percent identify themselves as Democrats, while 25 percent call themselves Republicans.

Eleven percent of likely voters overall are uncommitted - they have either not yet chosen a candidate or their minds could still change. That percentage is down two points from last week. Majorities of these voters are white, older than 45, and female. Most live in the Midwest and South. Forty-four percent describe themselves as independent.

Among all likely voters, Obama holds large leads among women (54 percent to 40 percent), independents (54 percent to 37 percent) and moderates (56 percent to 38 percent). He also leads among men, 50 percent to 43 percent.

McCain holds a small edge among whites, 48 percent to 46 percent, though Obama leads slightly among white women.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1439 adults nationwide, including 1308 registered voters, interviewed by telephone October 25-29, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. (This has been updated from an inaccurate earlier version.)

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