WASHINGTON – A new poll shows that Sen. John McCain is gaining on Sen. Barack Obama among likely voters in three key states,but some experts say it is too early to tell who will win.
According to poll numbers in three major swing states – Florida,Ohio and Pennsylvania – released by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute on Thursday,Obama holds his lead in Ohio,but Gov. Sarah Palin has boosted McCain's numbers in the other two states.
Peter Brown,assistant director of the institute,said Palin received positive reviews from Democrats and Republicans in Florida and Pennsylvania,but her impact did not improve McCain's polling numbers in Ohio.
“There's a sense of economic pessimism that's pretty pervasive in Ohio,” Brown said. “Voters are more fixated on how this election will affect the economy than on Palin.”
Since the previous poll released Aug. 26,Obama increased his lead in Ohio. In August it was Obama 44 percent and McCain 43 percent. The new poll has Obama ahead 49 to 44 percent. The new poll was conducted Sept. 5 through 9 and has a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points for Ohio.
McCain increased his lead in Florida from 3 points in August to 7 points in the September poll,with a 3 percentage point margin of error. He trails Obama 45 to 48 percent in Pennsylvania,with a 3 percentage point margin of error,compared to 42 to 49 percent in August
With the presidential race tight and sometimes within the margin of error,individual polls are no longer a clear indicator of who is ahead,said Elaine Kamarck,a lecturer on public policy at Harvard University who worked for Al Gore's presidential campaign.
“We're barely a week away from the Republican National Convention,” Kamarck said. “We need to be a little cautious of any one poll at this time.”
She said a better way to gauge the leader would be to average the polls that have been released.
While no president has won since 1960 without winning at least two of the three states included in the Quinnipiac swing-state poll,more states will be considered swing states in this election,Kamarck said.
New Hampshire is a toss-up for the first time in a while,and Colorado,Nevada and New Mexico could go either direction,she said.
“We're waiting to see polls out of the smaller,western states because of a lot of those states are in play where they haven't been before,” Kamarck said.
After Palin joined the Republican ticket,women voters were closely watched to see which candidate they will support,said Clay Richards,assistant director at the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Richards said some women who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton have rushed to embrace McCain because of Palin,but overall he said he thinks the Palin effect will diminish.
In Florida,24 percent of Clinton supporters now back McCain,up from 14 percent in August,and 28 percent in Pennsylvania support McCain compared to 23 percent last month.
But in Ohio,Clinton backers who switched to McCain dropped from 25 percent to 22 percent in the September poll.
“Clinton's out there trying to counter that as best she can,” Richards said about the Democratic response to Palin's influence.
Diana Owen,chairwoman of the American studies department at Georgetown University,said both campaigns are targeting women voters because they consistently turn out in large numbers to vote.
During the primary season,Obama's campaign went after black voters and younger voters to energize a base that would support him,but Owen said it is more expensive to keep mobilizing those two groups.
“When you have so much at stake in the primaries,you can afford to reach out to different groups that might be a riskier bet,” she said.
As the end of the campaign season looms,Owen said Obama and McCain will focus on one group that is certain to vote and impact this election – women.
“Fifty-some odd days left to campaign is a long time,” Owen said.