NY Times; by Adam Nogourney and Megan Thee; April 4, 2008
WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama’s support among Democrats nationally has softened over the last month, particularly among men and upper-income voters, as voters have taken a slightly less positive view of him than they did after his burst of victories in February, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The survey suggests that Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may have been at something of a peak in February, propelled by a string of primary and caucus victories over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and that perceptions of him are settling down.
Mr. Obama’s favorability rating among Democratic primary voters has dropped seven percentage points, to 62 percent, since the last Times/CBS News survey, in late February. While that figure is by any measure high, the decline came in a month during which he endured withering attacks from Mrs. Clinton and responded to reports that his former pastor had made politically inflammatory statements from his church’s pulpit in Chicago.
Still, the events of the last month do not appear to have fundamentally altered the race for the party’s nomination or provided what Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has been seeking: evidence of a collapse in Mr. Obama’s standing or an overwhelming preference voiced for Mrs. Clinton by Democratic voters in polls, developments that could be used to persuade uncommitted superdelegates to sign on with her.
The poll showed that Mr. Obama now leads Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, 47 percent to 42 percent; his lead was 50 percent to 38 percent in late February, when Mr. McCain still faced primary opposition from Mike Huckabee. The latest poll shows Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. McCain, 48 percent to 43 percent, in a similar match-up.
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are now effectively tied among Democratic voters, with 46 percent saying they want the party to nominate Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent for Mrs. Clinton. In late February, 54 percent of Democrats said they wanted Mr. Obama to win the nomination, compared with 38 percent for Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Obama’s lead among men has disappeared during that period. In February, 67 percent of men wanted the party to nominate him compared with 28 percent for Mrs. Clinton. Now 47 percent back him, compared with 42 percent for her, a difference within the poll’s margin of error. Similarly, his lead has shrunk among whites, voters making more than $50,000 annually and voters under age 45.
The poll, taken March 28 through April 2, contains some encouraging news for Mr. Obama as he and Mrs. Clinton slog through what has become an extended fight for their party’s nomination. Over half of those sampled continued to view him as having a better chance of defeating Mr. McCain. Most expect him to win the nomination. And Mr. Obama’s supporters are more enthusiastic about his candidacy than are Democrats backing Mrs. Clinton.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted with 1,196 registered voters, including 510 Democratic primary voters and 323 Republican primary voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all voters, four percentage points for Democratic primary voters and five percentage points for Republican primary voters. The margin is slightly higher for subsets within the sample, like white men.
The poll indicated that Mr. McCain was enjoying some success during this season of Democratic unrest in trying to build his standing within his own party. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Republican primary voters, compared with 57 percent in February. Yet the poll suggested he might face obstacles in the fall running against either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama.
When all registered voters were asked if the policies of a McCain administration would favor the rich, the middle class or the poor, or treat all groups the same, 53 percent said Mr. McCain would favor the rich while 16 percent said he would favor the middle class. Twenty-three percent said he would treat all groups the same. (The number of people who said a McCain administration would favor the poor was so small as to not register on the poll.)
By contrast, 23 percent said Mrs. Clinton’s policies would favor the rich. And 13 percent said that about Mr. Obama.
Of those respondents who said they had heard about the controversy involving Mr. Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., 36 percent of the general electorate said it made them look less favorably on Mr. Obama. Sixty-two percent said it made no difference. And 77 percent of Democrats said the episode had not affected their view of Mr. Obama.
Twenty-six percent of the general electorate voters who heard of the speech that Mr. Obama gave to try to deal with the controversy said it made them feel more favorable about him. And 74 percent of Democrats said Mr. Obama would be the kind of candidate who would unite the nation; 60 percent said the same of Mrs. Clinton.