WASHINGTON — Barack Obama leads John McCain nationally by 50-42 percent heading into the final hours of the 2008 presidential campaign, according to an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll released Monday.
The poll, taken through Sunday, found 1 percent of likely voters supporting independent candidate Ralph Nader and 7 percent still undecided.
When the undecided voters were pushed to choose a candidate based on their views on the issues, they split almost evenly, with a slight edge to McCain. With all likely voters allocated to candidates, Obama led 53-46 percent, with 1 percent still for Nader.
If Obama were able to match that Tuesday, it would mark the first time that a Democrat has topped 50 percent in a national election since Jimmy Carter won 50.1 percent of the popular vote in 1976.
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The survey includes people who've already voted.
It counts as likely voters some Americans who've never voted before. While polls traditionally count only those who've voted before as likely to do so again, Ipsos and several other polls expect turnout to swell this fall and are counting more young people and other first-time voters as likely to vote.
The results were in line with other public polls conducted into the final weekend of the campaign. An average of public polls maintained by RealClearPolitics.com showed Obama leading nationally by 51.7 to 44.2 percent.
Nearing the end of the long campaign, nearly two out of three likely voters, 64 percent, find themselves more excited and interested in voting than they were in other elections. Just 27 percent describe themselves as more "disgusted" and less interested in voting than in other years.
Likely voters rated the debates the most useful source of information in deciding how to vote, followed by television news coverage of the campaigns, newspaper coverage, television ads and personal contact from the campaigns.
Obama leads among men by 6 points and women by 9 points. He leads among voters 34 and younger by 18 points, and among those 35 and older by 4 points. He leads among Hispanics by 31 points, blacks by 94 points and other minority races and ethnic groups by 54 points.
He leads in the Northeast, the Midwest and the West.
McCain leads among non-Hispanic whites by 11 points, and in the South.
Obama supporters are more positive; 88 percent of Obama voters say they're voting mainly FOR him, while 10 percent say they're voting AGAINST McCain.
McCain supporters are slightly more negative in their motives; 79 percent say they're voting FOR McCain, while 18 percent are voting AGAINST Obama.
Overall, 65 percent of likely voters expect Obama to win; just 28 percent think McCain will prevail.
The survey showed Obama stopping an erosion of support on the key issue of jobs and the economy and holding an advantage heading into the election.
Likely voters prefer Obama over McCain to handle jobs and the economy by a margin of 8 percentage points, up slightly from 7 points the week before. He'd led on that issue by 16 points the week before that, but he lost support when McCain launched his "Joe the Plumber" campaign charging that Obama would raise taxes and choke off economic growth in small businesses.
Obama fought back, using his vast campaign war chest to flood the airwaves with ads stressing his promise to cut taxes for those who make less than $200,000 annually and raise them only on those who earn more than that.
That also helped the Illinois senator hold an advantage on the issue of taxes, where likely voters prefer him over McCain by a margin of 8 points, up from 5 points the week before.
Obama also led on the issues of health care and family values, as well as on leadership and representing change.
Likely voters prefer McCain over Obama on national security by 13 points. They also prefer the Arizona senator on foreign policy by a margin of 13 points, up from 9 points the week before.
With Election Day nearing, both candidates saw their support firm up.
Among Obama supporters, 95 percent said they'd definitely vote for him — up from 77 percent a month ago — and just 1 percent said they still could change their minds, down from 8 percent a month ago.
Similarly, among McCain supporters, 96 percent said they'd definitely pull the lever for him — up from 74 percent a month ago — and 1 percent said they still could switch, down from 8 percent a month ago.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted Thursday through Sunday. For the survey, Ipsos interviewed a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of 760 likely voters 18 and older across the United States.
Likely voters are defined as individuals registered to vote, who voted in the 2004 presidential election, are a 7-10 on a 10-point likelihood-to-vote scale and are interested in following news about the campaign "a great deal" or "quite a bit." Individuals who didn't vote in the 2004 presidential election qualify as likely voters if they're registered to vote, are an 8-10 on a 10-point likelihood-to-vote scale and are interested in following news about the campaign "a great deal" or "quite a bit." Those individuals who've already cast ballots through early voting or absentee ballots automatically qualify as likely voters.
With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within plus or minus 3.6 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 subgroups 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 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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