Poll: McCain Gains, But Obama Well Ahead

By: CBS
By: CBS

(CBS) On the eve of Election Day in what has effectively been the longest and most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history, Republican nominee John McCain has gained some ground on Democratic rival Barack Obama, a new CBS News tracking poll finds.

But going into Tuesday's voting, Obama maintains a comfortable, nine-point advantage among likely voters, with a smaller percentage - just five percent - remaining undecided.

The Democratic ticket of Obama and Joe Biden now leads the Republican ticket of McCain and Sarah Palin 51 percent to 42 percent among likely voters nationwide, including those who lean towards one of the candidates. That's a narrowing of four points in McCain's deficit from what CBS News polling showed on Saturday and Sunday, when the Democratic ticket was shown to have a 13-point lead.

Less than 1 in 10 of each candidate's supporters say they might still change their mind.

Overall, nine percent of likely voters say they are uncommitted - either undecided or open to changing their mind. In a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted just before the 2004 election, about 10 percent of voters said they were uncommitted. At the same time in 2000, 16 percent were uncommitted.

This campaign's uncommitted voters are mostly white, and the majority is 45 or older. Nearly half describe themselves as politically moderate and 43 percent are independent. Almost 40 percent live in the South. There are slightly more Democrats (30 percent) than Republicans (20 percent) among the group.

Nearly one in four registered voters say they have already voted absentee or at an early voting location.

The Palin And Bush Factors:

There is evidence that Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket has hurt McCain with some voters. Fourteen percent of Obama's supporters say they once supported McCain, and the top reason given for their switch was McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate.

While views of Palin have improved somewhat since last week, she continues fare worse than Biden when it comes to favorability. Today, 37 percent of registered voters have a favorable view of the Alaska governor, while the same percentage have an unfavorable view. Biden is viewed favorably by 43 percent and unfavorably by 21 percent.

McCain has not been helped by his association with President Bush, the poll suggests. Fifty-four percent of voters think McCain would continue Mr. Bush's policies, and the president is extremely unpopular: his approval rating now stands at 20 percent, the lowest ever recorded for a president. His disapproval rating of 72 percent matches his all-time high, first reached last month.

Views Of The Candidates:

Obama’s voters continue to be much more enthusiastic about their candidate than McCain’s voters are about theirs. Sixty-nine percent of Obama voters are enthusiastic about the Democratic nominee, while just 44 percent of McCain voters are enthusiastic about their candidate.

A majority of McCain voters - 56 percent - are "scared" of the prospect of an Obama presidency, while 45 percent of Obama voters are scared of a McCain presidency.

While 64 percent of registered voters say Obama understands their needs and problems, just 48 percent say McCain understands, a 16 point difference. McCain is more widely seen as prepared to be president, with 65 percent saying he is prepared for the job. But while McCain beats Obama by 12 points on the question, a majority - 53 percent - see Obama as prepared.

Obama's favorable rating stands at 50 percent while his unfavorable rating at 35 percent. Voters are essentially evenly split on McCain, who has a 43 percent favorable rating and a 42 percent unfavorable rating.

The number of voters who think Obama's policies will help the economy is down since Saturday, but he is still the clear winner on this issue. Forty-five percent of registered voters think Obama's policies will make the economy better, a drop of six points from two days ago. But only 30 percent now think McCain's policies will help.

Meanwhile, 48 percent believe McCain will raise their taxes, while 46 percent believe Obama will do so.

The race is essentially tied among men. Obama holds a large lead among women (55 percent to 41 percent) and moderates (60 percent to 33 percent). He has a slight lead among independents (46 percent to 43 percent). McCain holds a small lead among whites overall (49 percent to 46 percent), while the race is about even among white women.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1051 adults nationwide, including 952 registered voters, interviewed by telephone October 31-November 2, 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.

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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