“Voters have reached a comfort level with Barack Obama,” said Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster who conducts the poll with Republican Neil Newhouse.
That comfort is reflected in the ground gained by Sen. Obama among some important voter groups in the weeks since the financial turmoil hit. The poll finds Sen. Obama now holds a 12-percentage-point advantage with independents, a group both sides have fiercely sought. Two weeks ago, Sen. Obama led this group by just four percentage points. In mid-September, independents favored Sen. McCain by 13 points.
Sen. Obama leads suburban voters by 12 percentage points, up from two points two weeks ago. He leads among older voters, those over 65 years old, by nine points, erasing a one-point McCain advantage from the last poll. And in the Midwest, home to a swath of battleground states, he is now favored by 25 points, up from a one-point advantage.
Some daily tracking polls have found a tighter race between Sens. McCain and Obama in recent days. Real Clear Politics, a Web site that averages major polls, shows Sen. Obama up by 7.2 percentage points. Others have found a larger spread, such as one released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, a nonpartisan research group. That poll found a 14-point advantage for Sen. Obama among registered voters. Many polls also show Sen. McCain lagging in key battleground states, which hold the electoral votes that could decide the race.
Sen. Obama has also eaten into traditional Republican advantages, notably on taxes, despite Sen. McCain’s attempts to make the issue a central economic theme of the campaign’s closing days. In the mid-September Journal poll, Sen. McCain was favored 41% to 37% when voters were asked which candidate would be “better on taxes.” This week’s poll found Sen. Obama leading on the issue by 48% to 34%.
“Everyone knows Obama’s only going to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000, and Joe the Plumber does not make more than $250,000,” said Jeff Howard, a 20-year-old student from Bell, Ky., who told pollsters he was voting for Sen. Obama, and said he leans Democratic, but not strongly.
“I don’t think Palin is ready to take that office,” said Lois Peterson, 83, of St. Peter, Minn., an independent who now favors Sen. Obama. “She doesn’t seem very professional.”
That point was underscored on Sunday when retired Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Sen. Obama, citing, in part, his concerns about Gov. Palin’s readiness.
Nineteen percent of voters polled on Sunday and Monday — halfway through the total polling period — said the Powell endorsement made them more inclined to support Sen. Obama.
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