Trust Driving 4 Percent McCain Lead in Buckeye State


With just 51 days remaining in the 2008 Presidential campaign, the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin holds a 4-point lead in the key state of Ohio, according to a poll released today by Suffolk University.  McCain-Palin led the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama-Joe Biden 46 percent to 42 percent.

Identifying with Palin

More respondents identify with Sarah Palin than with the other candidates.  Asked which of the four candidates is “most like you,” 31 percent said Palin, followed by Obama (22 percent), McCain (21 percent), and Biden (13 percent).  In addition, 38 percent of respondents felt Palin has been treated harshly by the media, while 23 percent said she has been treated fairly. Among the self-described independent voters of Ohio, 42 percent said Palin was treated harshly, while 6 percent indicated fairly.

When asked which candidate they trusted more -- Obama or McCain -- respondents chose McCain over Obama, 49 percent to 41 percent.  They also said they believe McCain is more likely to fulfill his pledge to lower taxes than Obama (41 percent to 31 percent).

"McCain is benefiting from Palin identification and empathy as well as a greater sense of Buckeye voter trust," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston.  "However, should the trust firewall in Ohio break down, it could signal the beginning of an electoral blue domino effect there."

Ohio politics is divided sharply by region. In the northeast region McCain dominated Obama, 59 percent to 32 percent, while Obama crushed McCain in Cuyahoga County, 54 percent to 28 percent.  Obama's slight lead in the Cincinnati/Dayton region was more than offset by the McCain lead in the Columbus/southeast region.  The two candidates were virtually tied in the Toledo/northwest region of the state.

Obama's strengths

Obama showed other strengths in the poll.  More respondents believe Obama (40 percent) understands and cares about their problems.  McCain and Palin (22 percent each) trailed, with Biden receiving 4 percent.  And when asked which of the two presidential candidates has the best plan to bring jobs to Ohio, Obama led McCain 40 percent to 29 percent, with 19 percent undecided and 11 percent saying “neither.”

The top issues on the minds of Ohio voters were economy/jobs (38 percent), Iraq War (14 percent), health care (13 percent), moral values (10 percent), taxes (9 percent) and terrorism (8 percent).

Third-party impact

There are seven candidates for president on the Ohio ballot, and a small but significant number of votes were siphoned off by third-party candidates.  Libertarian Bob Barr, the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney and independent Ralph Nader each polled 1 percent, while 7 percent were undecided. 

"In a state this close, every point counts.  Neither Obama nor McCain wants third-party candidates -- who may never share the presidential debate stage -- to determine their fate in Ohio by virtue of their names listed on the ballot," said Paleologos.

Bellwether for McCain

The Ohio bellwether of Perry County showed McCain (42 percent) edging Obama (41 percent), with Nader receiving 2 percent and Barr and McKinney each receiving 1 percent, while 10 percent were undecided, and 3 percent refused a response.

In 2008, Suffolk University bellwethers were 95 percent accurate in predicting straight-up winners in both Democratic and Republican primaries, and, when in agreement with the statewide Suffolk polls, were 100 percent accurate in predicting straight-up winners.


The Suffolk University poll was conducted Wednesday Sept. 10, 2008, through Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008.  The margin of error on the study of 600 is +/- 4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.  All respondents from the Ohio statewide survey were likely voters. There were 300 respondents from the bellwether of Perry County, Ohio, identified separately from the statewide poll. Marginals will be posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site on Monday, Sept. 15, 2008.  The 195 pages of cross-tabulation data will be posted on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008.  For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.

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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris