Obama Leading in Tight Sunshine State Contest


While Congress grapples with a $700 billion dollar financial backstop package to salvage the credit markets, Democrat Barack Obama (46 percent) leads Republican John McCain (42 percent), in the state of Florida, according to a Suffolk University/WSVN-7News Miami poll released today.
“There is an inverse relationship between the financial health and well being of the United States and Barack Obama's political campaign,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston.  "Like a see-saw, the lower the economy goes, the higher Obama's poll numbers.  Ultimately, If Florida votes Obama, the rest of the battleground states may not matter."

Comparable polls over the past week have shown the Florida race deadlocked.

GOP blamed for economic woes

The recent Wall Street turmoil has not reflected well on the Republican Party.  When likely voters were asked which political party -- if any -- deserved blame for the economic downturn, 39 percent blamed the Republicans; 19 percent blamed Democrats; 24 percent said neither; and 17 percent were undecided.

VP debate

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin shows only a minimal added benefit to the Republican ticket, while expectations for her performance in tomorrow night's debate are quite low.  Forty percent of respondents said that her presence on the ticket made them more likely to vote for John McCain; 36 percent less likely; and 22 percent weren't sure. 

Forty-six percent said they expected Democrat Joe Biden to win the vice presidential debate, while 31 percent picked Palin, and 17 percent were undecided.

“The “Biden bar” is quite high in terms of the voter expectation level leading up to his debate performance,” said Paleologos.  “If Palin were competitive in the debate, or if she were to be perceived as winning, her success could benefit the top of the GOP ticket.”

Eighty percent of all Florida likely voters said they planned to watch the debate, and 74 percent said that this debate would be very important or somewhat important in determining whom they will vote for.

Respondents said they trust Obama more than McCain by the slimmest of margins, 45 percent to 44 percent.  This is consistent with the 7NEWS-Boston/Suffolk University poll of likely New Hampshire voters released last week.

Voters relate to Obama

Of the four presidential and vice-presidential candidates, more voters identified with Obama: 32 percent chose him when asked which candidate was “most like you,” compared to 23 percent who chose McCain.  Obama also led McCain 42 percent to 32 percent when respondents were asked which of the four cares about the problems of people “like you.”

A number of voters said they support third-party candidates, with Libertarian Bob Barr the choice of 2 percent of voters polled and Green Party Cynthia McKinney and Ecology Party Ralph Nader each receiving 1 percent. 

Leading issues in Florida

The top issues for Florida voters were economy/jobs (43 percent), moral values (10 percent), health care (9 percent), Iraq War (9 percent), terrorism (8 percent), and taxes (7 percent).

The Florida bellwethers of Hillsborough & Monroe counties showed Obama leading McCain comfortably, 46 percent to 38 percent.  Bellwether IDs are designed to predict outcomes -- not margins -- and to supplement the Suffolk University statewide polls.

In 2008, Suffolk University bellwethers were 95 percent accurate in predicting 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 winners.


The Suffolk University poll was conducted Saturday Sept. 27, 2008, through Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008.  The margin of error on the study of 600 is +/- 4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.  All respondents from the Florida statewide survey were likely voters. There were 300 respondents each from the bellwethers of Hillsborough and Monroe counties, identified separately from the statewide poll.  Marginals and 180 pages of cross-tabulation data will be posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008.  For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.

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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris