NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Barack Obama has opened his biggest lead over John McCain of the fall campaign, according to a new Ipsos/McClatchy poll that puts him ahead nationwide by 7 percentage points.
Obama's gain appears to come from two key factors.
First, voters are ever more anxious about the faltering economy and trust Obama by a 15-point margin over McCain to steer it. Second, their confidence that McCain's running mate Sarah Palin is qualified to step into the presidency if necessary has fallen sharply.
The net effect is seen in the nationwide support for all the presidential candidates, including those from minor parties:
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_ Obama, the Democratic nominee, had the support of 47 percent of registered voters.
_ McCain, the Republican candidate, had the support of 40 percent.
_ Independent candidate Ralph Nader had 3 percent.
_ Libertarian candidate Bob Barr had 1 percent.
With less than a month before Election Day, 9 percent remained undecided or uncommitted, and nearly one in 10 supporters of the two top candidates said they still could change their minds. The poll of 858 registered voters was taken Oct. 2-6 and had an error margin of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Still, Obama clearly has momentum entering the final month of the campaign, having gained steadily since Labor Day in the weekly Ipsos/McClatchy poll. In the first week of September he trailed by 1 percentage point, then was tied the next week, then took a one-point lead, next a four-point lead and now a seven-point lead.
Already the top issue on voters' minds, jobs and the economy jumped even higher on the national priority list during the past two weeks. It's now ranked No. 1 by 42 percent of voters.
Voters see Obama as a stronger steward of the economy by 52 percent to 37 percent, tripling the five-point advantage Obama held at the beginning of September.
They trust Obama over McCain on health care and, unusual for a Democrat over a Republican, on family values and taxes. They also divided almost evenly on who's a stronger leader, erasing McCain's former advantage.
Voters still trust McCain more than Obama on foreign policy — a 15 percentage point advantage — and on national security by a 23-point edge.
Those issues, however, lag far behind the 42 percent concerned most about the economy. Voters ranked national security a distant No. 2 priority, named as the top concern by just 16 percent. They listed foreign policy seventh, the dominant concern of only 4 percent.
Palin's sunk since her debate last week with Joe Biden. Before the debate, voters thought her qualified to be president by a margin of 48 percent to 44 percent. After the debate, she was seen as qualified by 43 percent, while those saying she's not qualified rose to 51 percent.
Biden was seen as qualified to be president by 60 percent and not qualified by 32 percent.
Obama also is benefiting from a gender gap. McCain leads among men by 45 percent to 40 percent, but Obama leads among women by a much larger margin of 53 percent to 36 percent.
Obama leads by 21 points among those aged 18-34; has a 46 percent 42 percent edge among those aged 35-54, and is neck and neck with McCain among older voters.
McCain leads by 48 percent to 39 percent among whites; Obama by 91 percent to 4 percent among blacks, by 64 percent to 18 percent among Hispanics and by 63 percent to 37 percent among other races and ethnicities.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted October 2-6. We interviewed 858 registered voters. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within � 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population in the U.S. been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. These data were weighted to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to U.S. Census figures. Interviews were conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones. Respondents had the option to be interviewed in English or Spanish.
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