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Obama Up by 10 Points as McCain Favorability Ratings Fall
While there are few signs of progress for McCain in the poll, recent history suggests that mid-October leads are vulnerable, although turning around a late double-digit deficit would be unprecedented in the modern era. At this stage in 1992, Bill Clinton held a 14-point advantage over incumbent George H.W. Bush in Post-ABC polling, and it was as high as 19 points before the election, which he won by six points. In mid-October 1976, Jimmy Carter had leads as big as 13 points in Gallup polling; Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford by two points.
After weeks of international financial turmoil and a steep Wall Street plunge, there continues to be remarkable consensus among voters that the economy is the campaign's top issue. More than half of all voters, 53 percent, volunteered in an open-ended question that the economy and jobs constituted the most important issue in their choice for president.
Obama is winning "economy voters" by 62 percent to 33 percent, nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.
The next most important issue, health care, was offered by 7 percent of voters. A combined 11 percent of respondents chose terrorism or Iraq -- national security issues on which McCain is relatively stronger -- as their driving issues.
With the airwaves in battleground states reaching saturation level and coverage of the campaign intensifying, 59 percent of voters said that McCain is mainly on the attack, a marked increase over the 48 percent who said the same in August. And 35 percent of respondents said McCain is addressing the issues, in stark contrast with the 68 percent who said Obama is doing so.
That follows a report issued last week by the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project that found that nearly all of McCain's television spots in early October were negative ads, compared with about a third of Obama's.
On taxes, an issue that often benefits Republicans and that McCain has worked aggressively to highlight, Obama holds a significant lead for the first time as voters gave the Democrat an 11-point edge on whom they trust to handle tax policy.
Nearly as many said they think McCain would raise their federal taxes as said so of Obama, an apparent repudiation of Republican efforts to portray Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal and one that follows an intense advertising barrage by Obama asserting that McCain would tax health-care benefits.
Nor has there been evident progress for the GOP campaign to label Obama as an extreme liberal: Fifty-five percent of voters see the Democrat as "about right" ideologically, and although 37 percent see him as "too liberal," that is about the same as it was in June. By contrast, the percentage seeing McCain as "too conservative" is up to 42 percent, higher than it was four months ago.
Obama continues to dominate on the question of who better understands the economic problems facing the country. Both candidates have sought to connect with voters on the issue, and 58 percent said Obama is more in tune with their beliefs, more than double the number who said the same of McCain.
More broadly, there were few signs that McCain's attempts to reinvigorate his standing on economic matters have gained traction. McCain lags 17 points behind Obama on protecting the Social Security system, 28 points behind on helping the middle class and 29 points behind on health care.
McCain's efforts to portray Obama as a risky choice do not appear to have worked, either. In fact, voters are likelier to describe the Republican candidate that way, and although 29 percent said they consider Obama a "very safe" choice for president, 18 percent said the same for McCain. Voters were evenly divided on the question of whether McCain is safe or risky; 55 percent said Obama is safe, while 45 percent described the Democrat as risky.