Barack Obama holds a significant lead over John McCain in the final days of Campaign 2008. The Pew Research Center’s final pre-election poll of 2,587 likely voters, conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 1, finds 49% supporting or leaning to Obama, compared with 42% for McCain; minor party candidates draw 2%, and 7% are undecided.
The survey finds indications that turnout may well be significantly higher than in 2004, when voting participation reached its highest point in nearly four decades. The new poll projects increased rates of voting among young people and African Americans, who strongly favor Obama. But it also finds signs of greater likely turnout across the board.
In the campaign’s final week, McCain is getting the boost that Republican candidates typically receive when the sample is narrowed from the base of 2,995 registered voters to those most likely to vote. Among all registered voters, Obama leads by 50% to 39%. His lead had been 16 points among registered voters (52% to 36%) in Pew’s previous survey, conducted Oct. 23-26.
Pew’s final survey indicates that the remaining undecided vote breaks slightly in McCain’s favor. When both turnout and the probable decisions of undecided voters are taken into account in Pew’s final estimate, Obama holds a 52% to 46% advantage, with 1% each going to Ralph Nader and Bob Barr.
The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 3,402 adults who were interviewed on landline and cell phones, finds that since mid-October, McCain has made gains among young voters, although they still favor Obama by a wide margin (by 61% to 36% among those ages 18 to 29). The Republican candidate has also made gains among political independents and middle-income voters. Obama still maintains a modest lead among independents, while middle-income voters are now evenly divided.
Obama holds a wide lead over John McCain among those who say they have already voted (32% of all likely voters) or say they plan to vote before Election Day (7%). However, it is not quite as large as it was a week ago. More significant, the race is about even among voters who plan to vote on Election Day: 46% support McCain while 45% favor Obama.
Both candidates hold sizable leads among their core constituent groups, including winning about nine-in-ten votes among their own partisans (90% of Democrats are voting for Obama, 89% of Republicans for McCain). Obama has strong support among blacks (89%-5%), Hispanics (62%-31%), young voters (61% to 36%), and lower-income voters (64%-29%). McCain has a large lead among white evangelical Protestants (71%-21%) and narrower advantages among whites (49%-42%) and married voters (50%-42%).
Significantly, Obama matches McCain or holds a narrow advantage among key swing voter groups that have voted Republican, or been evenly divided, in recent presidential elections. Aside from Obama’s six-point edge among independents (45%-39%), he is nearly even with McCain among white non-Hispanic Catholics (47% McCain, 45% Obama), suburban voters (47%-43%), and white women (47%-44%). For detailed demographic tables, including a profile of the likely electorate,see complete report PDF.
Notably, a much greater share of Obama supporters continue to say they are supporting him strongly, compared with McCain supporters. Among likely voters, 36% favor Obama strongly, while 13% say they support him only moderately. Only about a quarter of likely voters support McCain strongly (24%), compared with 18% who favor him only moderately. In most recent elections where there has been an imbalance in intensity of support, the candidate with the greater share of strong support has gone on to victory.
With Election Day approaching, many more voters say they have been contacted by the campaigns – primarily through mailings and pre-recorded telephone calls – than said so in mid-October. That is especially true for those in the battleground states. Nationwide, six-in-ten voters say that have received mail from the campaigns, up 14 points from the survey conducted Oct. 16-19. In the contested battleground states, 76% now say they have received campaign mailings, also up 14 points from mid-October.
Campaign mail remains the most common form of direct contact, but an increasing number of voters also say they are receiving pre-recorded telephone calls or “robo-calls.” Nationally, the proportion of voters saying they have received robo-calls is up 10 points since mid-October (from 37% to 47%). In the battleground states, nearly six-in-ten (59%) now say they have received a pre-recorded campaign call, compared with 52% in mid-October.
Among voters who have received robo-calls, nearly two-thirds (65%) say they usually hang up on such calls; just 30% say they usually listen. Nonetheless, voters who hang up on campaign robo-calls tend to treat them as only a minor annoyance. Half of all voters who receive robo-calls say they are a minor annoyance, while just 13% say the calls make them angry. Independent voters are more likely than Democrats or Republicans to say they hang up on robo-calls, and are about as likely as Democrats to say these calls make them angry.
Among all registered voters, 27% say they have received a personal call about the campaign and 14% say they have been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign. Meanwhile, in the battleground states, more than a third of voters (36%) say they have received a personal call about the campaign, while nearly a quarter (23%) say they have been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign.
McCain Voters Get More Robo-Calls
Nationwide, slightly more McCain supporters say they have received campaign mail than Obama supporters (63% vs. 57%).
In addition, more McCain supporters than Obama supporters (54% vs. 41%) say they have received pre-recorded calls. Meanwhile, more Obama supporters than McCain supporters say they have been visited at home (18% vs. 10%) by someone talking about the campaign. Identical percentages of both candidates’ supporters (27% each) say they have received a personal call about the campaign.
Twice as many Obama voters as McCain supporters (16% vs. 8%) say they have attended a campaign event. However, equal percentages of Obama and McCain supporters (18%) say they have donated money to any of the presidential candidates during the campaign. In mid-October, slightly more Obama supporters (19%) than McCain supporters (12%) said they donated to a candidate.
Email Less Common than Snail Mail
Overall, 28% of voters say they have received emails from the campaigns or political organizations. That is slightly less than half the percentage of voters who report receiving mail about one or more of the candidates (60%).
Not surprisingly, more younger voters than older voters say they have received emails from the campaigns or political organizations. Still, somewhat more voters age 18 to 29 say they have received mail about one or more of the candidates than say they have received emails about the candidates or campaigns from groups or political organizations (33%).