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Posted by on Sep 17, 2008 in Economy, Politics | 6 comments

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.

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