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New Track: The Economy, Taxes At Center Stage

Barack Obama's advantage on handling the economy dips to single digits in today's Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll, but his lead on handling taxes has held relatively steady through John McCain's hits on the topic on the campaign trail.

The presidential vote in the new poll holds steady at 52 percent for Obama to 45 for McCain, among likely voters.

Voters prefer Obama on the economy 52 to 43 percent, a nine-point margin, and McCain has also nudged up among "economy voters," the 54 percent of the probable electorate who said the economy is the single most important issue in their vote. Last week, Obama led by nearly 2 to 1 among these voters; it remains a hefty, but diminished 58 to 39 percent advantage for the Democrat.

The nine-point edge Obama currently holds as the candidate more trusted to handle the economy is half what it was in the middle of last week when he was up 56 to 38 percent and lags behind his post-convention average of 13 points. The decline has been most pronounced among whites with household incomes below $50,000.

A week ago, Obama held a 17-point lead on handling the economy among this group (54 to 37 percent), now, 49 percent prefer McCain, 46 percent Obama. The shift among whites with higher incomes, however, has been slightly toward Obama.

McCain has attempted to woo voters across income categories with an appeal on taxes, but this poll shows little evidence of movement. For example, white voters from under $50,000 households are about evenly split on the issue now: 46 percent favor Obama's approach, 44 percent McCain's. That is almost exactly where they were a week ago (45 percent Obama, 43 percent McCain).

Among all voters, Obama remains on top on dealing with taxes. Likely voters side with him over McCain, 51 to 41 percent, about the same as the Obama advantage throughout October. Coming into the month, the two ran about evenly on the issue.

Those in households with six-figure annual incomes are about evenly split on the taxes question, 49 percent favor McCain, 46 percent Obama, though in vote preference, the group favors McCain, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Along political lines, independents favor Obama on both points; by an 11-point margin on the economy and by 9 points on taxes. Obama's overall lead on both issues marks the biggest for a Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Today's tracking poll also measures the candidates against each other on handling an unexpected major crisis. On handling a sudden emergency, each candidate has held a big lead at some point during the fall campaign, with McCain up 15 points the weekend after the nominating conventions and Obama up nine in mid-October.

Among independents, 49 percent said they trust McCain more to 41 percent for Obama. Obama has not held a significant lead among those in the political middle during the fall campaign.

Full data from the Post-ABC Tracking poll can be found here.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  October 28, 2008; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Tracking  
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Next: Post-ABC Tracking: Better Know A Candidate


You're unable to measure day-to-day trends with the size and scatter of your polls and should stop trying to pretend. Chart your polls for October, and you will see they are consistent, given statistical fluctuations, with Obama holding at around 52 percent and McCain holding at around 42 percent of registered voters.

Such a trend is what the more detailed daily Rasmussen polls are showing, except that their adjustments for poll bias lead to about a six-point instead of ten-point gap. Substantial parts of of this year's adjustments represent an untried art, and we won't know until election results are available whose adjustment really reflect what voters will do.

Posted by: AppDev | October 28, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Your polling of independents is all over the place. One could argue that that's typical of independents, who aren't entirely reliable voters.

In 2004, the change in independents' preference for Bush and Kerry moved 25 percentage points in a 9 day period. 25 points.

Bush was ahead by 10 points among independents in the 10/19-10/21 poll and by the 10/27-10/30 poll independents favored Kerry by 15 points.

In the Post's last daily tracking poll before the election, independents favored Kerry by 7 points. Bush won the election by 3 points. Granted, Kerry's personality was a bit strange and maybe independents decided they'd rather vote for the known quantity, who, at least, seemed normal.

Obama is more charismatic and may continue to do well with independents, who vote not by principle but more by popularity.

Obama has led with independents from 1-11 points, the 11 point margin being today's. Yet just 2 days ago, there was only a 2 point difference between Obama and McCain among independents. Does it have something to do with the weekend? I don't know.

Posted by: SAM13 | October 28, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

What's also interesting is that the over the last several days the difference between dems and reps has dropped.

Six days ago, dems accounted for 9 points more that reps in the Post's poll (36% to 27%). That has dropped steadily to only 3 today. At the same time, however, independents have started to favor Obama more, basically offsetting the inclusion of more reps in the poll.

If that margin between reps and dems in the poll stays at 3-4 points, and independents move closer to McCain, especially if Obama's redistribution of wealth message becomes a problem and the market continues to stabilize, the race could get very tight very fast.

Posted by: SAM13 | October 28, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

On the other hand, it could just as easily be that the Post's random sample simply includes a bigger proportion of Republicans now by chance. Other pollsters try to filter out such an effect by weighting their data to reflect the actual proportion of registered Democrats and Republicans in the electorate, but the Post apparently doesn't do that. The Democrats have made dramatic increases in voter registration in many states and had record turnout in the primaries, while the GOP gained far fewer registrations and actually had a decline in primary turnout. Given that, I seriously doubt that the Democrats have only a 36-33 advantage in party ID. Ergo, Obama is probably ahead by more than the 7 points that this poll shows.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | October 28, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

The people who think McCain would do better than Barack in dealing with the economy must think the seven and a half years of Bush-Cheney-McCain economic policies have resulted in widespread prosperity in this country. McCain, if his policies were enacted, would continue huge tax cuts for the wealthy, give very little tax relief to middle class or "Joe the plumber" households, do little to expand health care coverage, result in many workers losing their employer based health care coverage and add to the existing huge national debt.

McCain has a proven record, opposing regulation of Wall Street and the banking system. Is there anyone out there who can say, "Senator, I knew Theodore Roosevelt and you are no Theodore Roosevelt."

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | October 28, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Just a reminder to be mindfull when you vote that you do not allow the machine to frigup or toss your vote to opposite candidate:

Posted by: grdn_nell | October 28, 2008 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Re: party ID, there is a squeezing effect that you see here. As the D-R ratio gets closer, the number of D-leaning Independents in the sample increases. When the D-R ratio expands, the Independents lean back to the right again. The net effect of a 36-33 ID split is the same as a 36-29 split IF the Independents are squeezed.

However, the earlier samples with Obama up 11 had a high ID split and NO squeezing (Indies leaned Dem too).

This happens in lots of polls that don't control party ID.

Conclusion: There is been no real movement in this poll. Obama really is up around 7 (maybe as low as 5 given other polls). And it isn't moving.

Obama will win 52-47-1 and take over 350 EVs.

Posted by: ElrodinTennessee | October 28, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: hclark1 | October 29, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Sick of hearing about Joe the plumber!

He was a GOP plant and he owes back taxes.

He can't handle his own personal responsibilities, so why would I listen to him. (Poor example.)

Why would McCain make this deadbeat famous. (Poor judgement.)

No McCain!

Posted by: Iwantmyvoicetobeheard | October 29, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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