CBS Poll: White Women, Independents Go Back to Obama

Much of John McCain’s RNC convention bounce was fueled by the movement of white women and Independents (and the largely crossover within) away from Obama. Even our own Polimom moved “back on the fence” after the two conventions.

If the new CBS/NYT poll is to be believed, those same voters are going back to Obama this week. And they have moved the top line numbers from McCain +2 to Obama +5. Yes, Independent women really are the swing voters.

As the CBS analysis points out:

Obama’s advantage can be traced in part to independents, who favored Obama in late August, swung to McCain just after the Republican convention, and have now returned to Obama. Obama now leads McCain among independents 46 percent to 41 percent.

Obama now also leads McCain among women, a group that favored McCain by five points in polling taken just after the Republican convention, where Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the second woman ever to be nominated to a major party ticket.

Obama leads McCain 54 percent to 38 percent among all women. He holds a two point edge among white women, a 21 percentage point swing in Obama’s direction from one week ago.

The movement of white women and Independents was quite abrupt and, if it holds, spells trouble for John McCain. Note that George W. Bush won white women convincingly over John Kerry.

There are three likely explanations for this shift.

1. The new maverick McCain that made a cameo appearance at the RNC has failed to materialize. McCain’s widely-criticized descent into sleaze and lies – particularly over protection against child molesters – has turned lots of women and Independents off.

2. Sarah Palin is falling like a lead balloon. Her disapproval rating jumped 11 points among women in a week. Palin’s favorable-unfavorable margin is 40-30; Joe Biden, by contrast has a 38-17 margin. Palin’s support comes almost entirely from white evangelical conservative Republicans. She fires up the GOP base. But she does little beyond it. And her hiding from the media only reinforces the notion that she is unprepared for the task at hand.

3. The financial crisis on Wall Street is hitting John McCain hard. Barack Obama gains the confidence of 60% of voters on the economy; McCain gets 53%. This isn’t a huge split, but considering that the economy ranks far above every other issue, it matters a lot that Obama leads here.

Only time will tell if this trend holds up. I have trouble imagining Sarah Palin rebuilding her support among Independents and women who no longer like her. But McCain can certainly rebound if he connects on the economy in the coming weeks.

The debates will be essential for both candidates in their push for white women and Independent voters. Not emotionally connected to either candidate, these voters are looking for real solutions. They are not impressed by insults about lipstick and computers. They are not identity-politics voters either, so neither Obama’s race nor Palin’s gender nor McCain’s age will make a difference. Expect both candidates to work hard to project an air of competence and reform on financial matters, and for each candidate to challenge the substance and bona-fides of the other.

Author: AARON ASTOR

6 Comments

  1. I suppose one good thing about a quake in the economy is that it makes people sit up and pay more serious attention to matters of substance and less attention to matters of distraction. The Palin phenomenon looks to me like it's close to having run it's course… at least among the voters who will matter. The R base may continue to fawn over her, but I imagine even that will wane. The Biden debate will be the next important date for Palin. I expect the R base has already decided to declare her a success in that debate, regardless of her performance, but the rest of us may find it interesting and of use.

  2. I don't think the economy or the sexual predator issues had much impact in these poll results simply because these are two recent events and voters haven't had time to sort out the candidate's positions.

    I think women initially liked Palin because she is fresh, spunky and quite frankly it IS exciting to see the first woman on the GOP ticket. But now independent women (not the religious right women) have had a chance to try on Palin and do not like what they see. Independent women tend to vote for issues and not a specific ideology. Palin is hard core religious right, so unless independent women happen to have the same values and positions on the issues of the religious right (it could happen, but it wouldn't be common) then these women will vote for the ticket with values and positions they identify with more.

    I agree that chances of independent women returning to Palin is pretty low.

    Given that I don't think that the sexual predator and economic issues had much of an impact for these results I think Obama will continue to increase his lead in the next few days. But I don't think it will match his previous highest lead.

  3. “The debates will be essential for both candidates in their push for white women and Independent voters.”

    Agreed, but I think the debates are important to other demographics too.

  4. Jspencer, “The R base will continue to fawn over her, but I imagine even that will wane.”

    If someone had asked me if I thought the Republicans would continue to fawn over Palin I would have said, “Yes.” But when you commented that you thought her GOP support would wan I actually took a look at it… and I think you might be right on this. But I think the ultimate reason would be ironic… I think they would support her because she is a religious right type but if the McCain campaign decides to downplay the importance of the VP (to try to counter the criticism that Palin is inexperienced McCain may say she won't actually set policy- he's the one with experience and will be running the country) then the religious right might not be as excited if they think McCain will support his own agenda (which the religious right is suspicious of) and that McCain will not take Palin's religious positions seriously.

    I generally agree with your other observations on this, but I'm not sure I agree that many people might find the Palin/Biden debate entertaining. I think many people will view the debate as Palin's last chance and will take it seriously. I personally want to see how she performs and what the public thinks of her performance. I think there are a few people out there who do not like what they see of Palin right now but do want a reason to vote for her (and McCain). You are right that regardless of how she does the GOP will call it a success. But the people who are most important in this isn't going to listen to the GOP talking points. If someone actually watches the debate they generally want to form their own views (or already have unchangeable opinions).

  5. Its heartening to see that even some conservative pundits have admitted that she just may not be ready for primetime. I am a little disappointed that Hillary hasn't spoken up more forcefully against the policies that Gov Palin supports– which are 180 degrees from hers. Hillary's voting pattern in the Senate was almost identical to Obama's.

    Imo, voting for Palin just because she's a woman is the most sexist move you could make (and I am a woman who was a big HC supporter), and insults the woman that you initially supported.

    It would be like blacks deciding to vote for the GOP (if Obama had lost the nomination) because they put Alan Keyes on the ticket. We'll never move beyond race and gender if that's the only reason for supporting a particular candidate.

  6. gee. what happened to all the neocon commenters? curious…

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