Dead Heat in Silver State Showdown


As the two major presidential candidates prepare to debate Friday night, John McCain (45.8 percent) and Barack Obama (45.3 percent) are in a virtual dead heat, with McCain leading by the slightest of margins among likely voters in the state of Nevada, according to a poll released today by Suffolk University.
“What happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas, because if Barack Obama tips the historically Republican Silver State his way, it may be indicative of a Democratic run from coast to coast among the battleground states,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston.

Nevada has voted Republican in eight of the last 10 presidential elections, dating back to 1968.

Fiscal responsibility

The recent Wall Street turmoil has not helped matters for the Republican Party.  When likely voters were asked which political party -- if any -- deserved blame for the roiling economy, 41 percent blamed the Republicans; 16 percent blamed Democrats; 27 percent said neither; and 16 percent were undecided.

“Up to now, John McCain has marketed himself as a maverick reformer. But he may well have to reinvent himself as a regulator if he wants to avoid the wrath of Nevada voters, who lay most of the blame for the mess in the financial markets on the Republican Party’s failure to play watchdog to Wall Street’s high rollers,” said Paleologos.

Respondents said they trust Obama more than McCain, 46 percent to 45 percent.  This contrasts sharply to the 49 percent - 41 percent trust advantage that McCain enjoyed in a Suffolk University Ohio poll a week ago.

Obama seen as caring

Obama showed other strengths in the poll.  More respondents believe Obama (40 percent) understands and cares about their problems.  McCain (23 percent) and Sarah Palin (18 percent) trailed, with Joe Biden receiving only 6 percent.

A small but significant number of voters said they support third-party candidates, with Libertarian Bob Barr the choice of 1 percent of voters polled and independent Ralph Nader, 2 percent. 

Top issues

The top issues on the minds of Nevada presidential voters were economy/jobs (47 percent), Iraq War (11 percent), terrorism (9 percent), moral values (9 percent), health care (8 percent), and taxes (6 percent).

The Nevada bellwether of Washoe County showed Obama (42 percent) leading McCain (38 percent), with Nader and Barr each receiving 1 percent and 15 percent undecided.

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 of the respective states, were 100 percent accurate in predicting straight-up winners.


The Suffolk University poll was conducted Wednesday September 17, 2008, through Sunday, September 21, 2008.  The margin of error on the study of 600 is +/- 4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.  All respondents from the Nevada statewide survey were likely voters. There were 300 respondents bellwether of Washoe County, Nev., identified separately from the statewide poll.  Marginals will be posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site on Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. There will be 198 pages of cross-tabulation data posted on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008.  For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.

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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris