This week’s Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Sen. Barack Obama leading Sen. John McCain 52 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, when last week’s polls showed them essentially even.
But this recent swing in polling numbers is not due to a skewed sampling pool or response effects – both of which can influence polling numbers and inflate actual results, says Darren Davis, a University of Notre Dame political scientist and nationally known expert on public opinion and political behavior. For instance, polling taken the day before the New Hampshire primary indicated a 10-point lead for Obama that turned into a 3-point deficit once results were tabulated.
“This time, there is enough evidence to suggest that Barack Obama’s recent surge may not be a data artifact, but a real increase in support,” says Davis, who specializes in political polling.
So what happened to give Obama the recent lead?
“The economy happened,” says Davis, “particularly problems in the financial markets and the proposed government bailout of financial institutions. I think this surge for Obama is probably real because he has been perceived in previous polls as the candidate better able to deal with economic issues, while McCain has received higher ratings in international security.”
The recent poll validates this perception, with Obama getting 54 percent support from those people most anxious about the economy.
“Another reason to think that this poll is correct is that most voters have made up their minds. While Republican voters are not switching to Obama – even over the economy – the surge is probably a response from reticent independents and Democrats,” Davis says.
Media advisory: Professor Davis’ comments may be used in whole or in part. He is available for interviews and can be reached at 574-631-5654 (office), 574-485-8766 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Originally published by newsinfo.nd.edu on September 26, 2008.at