WASHINGTON – While Sen. Barack Obama,D-Ill.,was in Iraq,the price of gasoline remained high.
And that may have hurt him in a new poll of four states that could be decisive in the election.
The poll released Thursday shows more voters supporting presumptive Republican candidate Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz.,in the 2008 presidential election than in a previous poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in conjunction with washingtonpost.com and the Wall Street Journal.
Because the presumptive Democratic candidate doesn't support offshore drilling,Peter Brown and Clay Richards,both assistant directors of the polling institute,agreed that the energy crisis is hurting Obama. McCain recently changed his policy to support offshore drilling for oil.
“People are being hit over the head with $4-a-gallon gas prices,” Brown said. “In these polls and in these states,McCain is on the right side of the issue. The public is more open to drilling.”
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,425 voters in Colorado,1,684 voters in Michigan,1,261 voters in Minnesota and 1,094 voters in Wisconsin. This is the second of four polls. The first was released June 26.
The new poll shows Obama's 17-point lead in Minnesota deteriorated to a 46-44 lead since last month. His lead over McCain in Wisconsin dropped from 13 percent to 11,and in Michigan his lead dropped from 6 percent to 4. Of the four states Quinnipiac surveyed,McCain leads only in Colorado,where his lead dropped from 5 percent to just 2.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points in Colorado; 2.4 percentage points in Michigan; 2.8 percentage points in Minnesota,and 3 percentage points in Wisconsin.
That means that in Minnesota and Colorado,the candidates are about even,and that in Michigan Obama is slightly ahead.
Brown said last month's poll wasn't as accurate as this month's.
“The last month,Obama had just claimed the Democratic nomination,and he was enjoying a bump from that,” Brown said. “It's not fair to say that his bubble has burst,but it's certainly leaking.”
The poll shows that some people who worry about the environment are now more concerned with high gas prices.
Nine percent of those surveyed in each of three states – Colorado,Minnesota and Wisconsin – and 11 percent in Michigan now support offshore drilling after previously opposing it. Richards said the gasoline crisis has grown so much,some voters consider it a bigger issue than the Iraq war.
“The war issue has become diffused because Obama no longer seems to be the liberal extremist in his party,” Richards said. “The energy crisis is an emerging issue,and it's going to be much more difficult for Obama to favor drilling because it would mean going against a long-held party position. McCain has the opportunity,as a candidate of the party who's more in favor of this,to gain some real ground here.”
Brown said most Obama supporters are younger than 30. A lot of voters in that demographic don't have land lines,and the poll doesn't call cell phones,which may have skewed the results.
Brown said Obama should concentrate on winning Colorado,a predominantly Republican state the last two presidential elections.
He added that the Democratic Party is aware of the state's importance,noting it is not a coincidence the Democratic National Convention will be in Denver. Brown said McCain's key state is Michigan,where Democrats won the last two presidential elections.
Another poll released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Research Center shows Obama with a substantial lead with Hispanic voters. The nationwide survey of 2,015 voters found that Obama has a 66-23 percent lead.
The poll also showed 77 percent of Hispanics who voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primaries are now inclined to vote for Obama in November. Only 8 percent are inclined to vote for McCain. The remaining 15 percent are undecided or didn't know.