Bush, War Help Obama to Big Lead in NJ

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As Republican Sen. John McCain opens his New Jersey campaign headquarters, the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll show him trailing Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee by double digits, 49%-33%. The poll also reveals the extent to which McCain’s association with the Bush administration and the war in Iraq hurts his campaign.

However, the results are not all good news for Obama.  Only 64% of respondents who say they voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton in February’s primary election now say that they will support Obama in November; 18% say that they will support the Republican.  “In many ways, this race is going to be a fight over Clinton supporters,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and survey analyst for PublicMind. “That fight is far from over.”

However, hurting McCain is the fact that only 18% of voters say that they approve of the job President Bush is doing while 75% disapprove. Worse, only 15% say that the country is moving in the right direction and nearly three in four say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

For the first time the poll finds there is not a majority of Republican voters who approve of the President’s job performance: Republicans split evenly on the question of Bush handling his job with 45% approving and 46% disapproving.  Another shift is in Republican views of the Iraq war: Republican voters by margins of two-to-one have said in many previous polls that going to war in Iraq was the “right thing to do” but now only half agree (51%) while 41% say it was a mistake.

“There’s no question that the war has a critical impact on Democrats, independents and Republicans alike,” said Cassino. “That support for the war is going down – even while the situation in Iraq seems somewhat better – is a bad sign for the Republicans.”

Obama’s lead increases substantially, from 13 to 18 points, when voters are asked questions about President Bush and Iraq before they are asked who they might vote for in the election. Half of respondents were asked questions about President Bush and the war in Iraq before being asked who they would vote for in the November election, while the other half were asked about the president and Iraq afterwards.

The greatest impact of reminding voters of national issues comes among independent voters. Among independent voters not reminded of Bush and Iraq, Obama and McCain tie 24% to 24% with a plurality of 48% undecided.  However, when independent voters are reminded of the national issues, Obama takes a 27 point lead, 41% - 14%.  “The more McCain is associated with Bush administration policies the more it hurts his support among independent voters,” said Cassino.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of voters say the race of the candidate is not an important factor in deciding their vote; 16% say it’s one of several important factors and 8% say it’s the single most important factor.  However, voters think that race will play a large role in other people’s decision-making. Just 28% say it won’t be an important factor for others while 46% say it will be one of several important factors and 15% say it will be the most important factor in how others will make their choice.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 702 registered voters statewide who report their chances of voting in the Presidential election as “fair” or better was conducted by telephone from June 17, 2008 through June 23, 2008 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

Contact: Peter Woolley 973.670.3239; Dan Cassino 973.896.7072

For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.

Copyright © 2008, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 080627]