- Published on Sept 18, 2008
- Contact Diane Swanbrow
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Concerns about jobs and the economy and a widespread need for change are leading Michigan residents to slightly favor Barack Obama over John McCain, according to results from the Big Ten Battleground Poll released today.
Nearly half (48 percent) of a representative sample of 628 registered voters in Michigan polled Sept. 14-17 said that if the 2008 presidential election were being held that day, they would vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.This compares to 44 percent who said they would vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin.
In Michigan, both Obama and McCain had equal levels of support among their partisans, almost 9 in 10. Independents were evenly divided in their preferences. But there were slightly more people in the survey who identified as Democrats, and that is the source of the Obama lead.
In seven of the eight Midwest states surveyed, Obama and McCain were in a statistical dead heat. The margin of error for the state polls was 4 percentage points.
"In the Big Ten states overall, and in Michigan in particular, people feel that Obama would be better than McCain at bringing about change (56 percent to 31 percent)," said University of Michigan researcher Michael Traugott, a Big Ten poll adviser. "The vast majority of people said that the term 'experienced' better describes McCain than Obama (72 percent to 17 percent). But people obviously value change over experience."
When asked about the war in Iraq, more than half of the Michigan respondents surveyed (53 percent) said that in their view, the most responsible thing to do is set a firm deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops within the next 16 months—basically the position taken by Obama. This compares to 42 percent who said that the most responsible thing to do is to remain in Iraq until the situation in the country stabilizes—McCain's position.
But according to Traugott, who is a U-M professor of communications studies and a senior research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), it is trouble in the economy that is most responsible for driving up support for Obama.
"Thinking about things in the U.S.," respondents were asked, "do you think things are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten off on the wrong track?" Overall, just 17 percent of those surveyed feel the U.S. is moving in the right direction, compared with 77 percent who feel the country is on the wrong track.
In Michigan, survey respondents were even more pessimistic. Eleven percent said things are going in the "right direction" while 84 percent in the state felt that things are on the "wrong track."
Respondents were asked how they felt about the nation's economy, specifically. "Would you say that over the past year the nation?s economy has gotten better, stayed the same or gotten worse?" In the nation, only about three percent said it had gotten better and 13 percent said about it was the same. Four out of five (83 percent) said it was doing worse than a year ago.
In Michigan, more than 82 percent said the economy was doing worse, compared to 12 percent who said it was doing about the same and just 4 percent who said it was doing better.
Most of the questions in the poll were asked of all respondents. But each participating Big Ten University asked a few questions of state residents only. In Michigan, U-M asked about support for stricter federal fuel efficiency standards for cars.
"Despite the personal impact of the ailing domestic auto industry, 67 percent of Michigan residents said that these standards should be stricter than they are now," Traugott said. "This compares to 25 percent who said standards should not be stricter, and 8 percent who had no opinion."
Among those who felt fuel efficiency standards should be stricter, Obama led McCain by 56 percent to 36 percent, while McCain led among those who felt the standards should not be stricter, 67 percent to 27 percent.
Just 24 percent of Michigan residents said they thought free trade agreements like the North Atlantic Free Trade Association (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), have been good for the United States Among this group, McCain led Obama 54 percent to 42 percent.
Slightly more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) said NAFTA and the WTO had been bad for the United States, and Obama led McCain by 52 percent to 39 percent in this group.About 21 percent of Michigan residents surveyed said they weren't sure or didn't know.
Half of Michigan residents said that the policies of Obama were more likely to create jobs. This compares with 33 percent who said McCain's policies were more likely to create jobs.
Half of those surveyed also said that the policies of Obama were more likely to improve the economy, while 39 percent said that McCain?s policies would be more likely to improve the economy.
"Given the turmoil in the financial markets in the past week, these perceptions of economic and jobs policies also give Obama an advantage," Traugott said.
For complete state, regional and national results from the September Big Ten Battleground Poll, visit: www.bigtenpoll.org
A second poll will be conducted and released in mid-October.