SUSA releases wave of general election polls, with both Democrats displaying their usual weaknesses

On March 19th and March 20th, SUSA released 16 general election polls that recorded public opinion in the aftermath of the Wright controversy; in many states, Obama was found to be plunging due to his continued weakness among registered Democrats and to the departure of independents and registered Republicans.

A month has passed, and SUSA released 14 general election polls from some crucial contests today; there is some good news for all candidates in these polls, but the first thing that jumps at me is the extent to which McCain is holding strong, putting a number of Democratic states in play. Obama leads McCain by single-digits in Massachusetts, New York, and California -- including a toss-up (once again) in Massachusetts.

The two Democrats are exhibiting their usual weaknesses that we notice in poll after poll. Obama has regained some of the ground he lost last month, but his at times stunning weakness among registered Democrats in places like Ohio and Missouri leaves him distanced by McCain (and Clinton). This is also also what is making states like MA and CA competitive. This weakness has been picked up over and over again by SUSA -- but also by other institutes (check the most recent Quinnipiac poll from FL, OH and PA with McCain picking-up a significant number of Dem votes when he faces Obama). However small this problem might seem, it is wrong to simply assume that registered Democrats will come home; the ease with which many Dems cross-over is exactly what Clinton is talking about when she questions Obama's electability and McCain has demonstrated his appeal among Democrats.

Meanwhile, Clinton has her own major problems. First, she comes in at dismally low number among African-American voters in most of these states. I do not always mention the results here since in many states the sample of black voters is too small to be statistically significant, but the trend is too consistent to not be revealing. In places like Virginia, Clinton cannot hope to remain competitive without rallying the African-American vote. Obama supporters, of course, contend that for Clinton to win the nomination would take such an ugly scenario that there is no way the New York Senator could regain the black vote. Second, Clinton does not as well as Obama among independents and registered Republicans in many states; in places like Oregon and Wisconsin, we have been seeing this trend for a while, as independent voters in a number of states (particularly in the West) seem to be among Clinton's harshest critics.

And here is the run-down of the numbers:

  • The most important state polled by SUSA is undoubtedly Ohio, where Clinton opens up a very significant lead against McCain, 53% to 42%. But McCain leads Obama 47% to 45%. That's a 5% shift towards both Democrats compared to last month, when Obama trailed by 7%.
  • Almost all the difference is due to registered Democrats, Obama carries 65%, Clinton 82%. Also, Obama loses the white vote by 12% while Clinton leads, though she underperforms among blacks (73%).
  • In Missouri, Clinton edges McCain 48% to 47% but McCain comfortably is ahead of Obama, 50% to 42%. McCain gets a full 27% of the vote of registered Democrats when paired up against Obama... which accounts for his trailing the Republican despite performing better among independents. This is actually a 6% improvement for Obama, however, compared to last month.
  • In Virginia, Obama performs better than Clinton but suffers from a significant decline: After tying McCain two straight months, he is now behind 52% to 44%. Clinton is crushed 55% to 39% -- she is also tied McCain last month. This is due to Clinton's dismal performance among blacks (60%) while Obama comes in much stronger among independents.
  • Obama's decline in the past month is due to McCain's closing the margin among registered Democrats by 17%.
  • In Kentucky, which is not supposed to be anywhere near the list of purple states, Clinton defies the odds by statistically tying McCain, 48% to 46%. She gets 73% of the Democratic vote. Obama trails 63% to 29% and loses the Democratic vote by a point.
  • It's hard to believe, but that is actually an improvement: Obama lost the Democratic vote by 7% last month, at least suggesting that this is not a complete outlier.
  • In New Mexico, McCain narrowly beats both Democrats: 49% to 46% against Clinton, 49% to 44% against Obama.
  • The two Democrats are equally strong among Hispanics.
  • In Minnesota, Obama leads McCain 49% to 43%; Clinton edges him 47% to 46%. That's a 7% improvement for the Illinois Senator.
  • In Iowa, Obama polls much better -- as usual: He beats McCain 49% to 42%, while Clinton trails 48% to 42%. The difference comes from independents, among whom Clinton trails by 26%!
  • In Oregon, another bluish swing state, Clinton and McCain are in a toss-up, 47% to 46%. Obama comes in much stronger, 51% to 42%. Here again, the difference comes from independents.
  • In Wisconsin, one of the tightest states in the country, Clinton and McCain are tied at 46%. Obama edges McCain 49% to 44%. The difference is very clearly due to independent voters: Obama leads by 1%, Clinton trails by 17%.
The next category are staunchly blue states that are essential to a Democratic victory -- and there are signs of troubles for Democrats, particularly in case of an Obama candidacy. The Illinois Senator looks weak in three states that constitute much of the Democratic base:

  • In Massachusetts, especially, poll after poll have shown Obama weak against McCain: This survey shows the Illinois Senator barely edging out the Republican, 48% to 46%. Clinton crushes McCain 56% to 41%. Most of the difference comes from registered Democrats: Obama gets 65%, and Clinton gets 84%. Believe it or not, this is actually a slight improvement for Obama, who was tied with McCain last month.
  • In California, Clinton beats McCain 53% to 40%; but McCain keeps Obama in single-digits, 50% to 43%. The difference here is first among women (Clinton has a 18% lead, Obama 8%) and both Democrats and independents (McCain actually leads Obama by 2% among the latter group!). That's a 7% drop for Obama over the past month.
  • In New York, the story is very similar: Clinton crushes McCain 55% to 39%, Obama is held to single-digits, 52% to 43%. Most of the difference comes from registered Democrats (McCain trails by 17% less). Obama already led by single-digits last month.
SUSA also released a few polls from red states that aren't competitive at all:

  • In Alabama, McCain predictably crushes both Democrats. He beats Clinton 60% to 34% and Obama 64% to 32%. Only 65% of black voters vote for Clinton, while Obama gets only 15% of white voters.
  • In Kansas, McCain beats Clinton 57% to 36% and Obama 54% to 37%. That's an improvement for the Republican against both Democrats.

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  • Well this is my last comment for today because I need to go to sleep and work on a important essay tommorow (technically later this morning)!

    These polls by Survey USA clearly show, as many other polls has shown, that the nasty Dem primary race has made McCain the favorite in a General Election. Clinton is actually stronger at least these polls because her strength among democrats is better than the strength Obama has among independets, particiualy in the generally safe Dem states of MA, NY, and CA. I don't think that these polls is enough to convince superdelegates to back Hillary Clinton over Obama because of the furior that would happen. That Clinton is greatly underperforming among blacks is just as major of a cocern as Obama's weakness with working class whites in these states, and thes polls dont' take into consideration the possiblity black turnout could be down sigificantly if Clinton wins the nom.

    As always, the key will be how long the Democratic primary drags out. It is very clear that if the democratic primary goes all the way to the convention, Democrats will have to wait four more years for the White house. However, if a nominee is chosen shortly after June 3rd then the party healing can start and probably by august (assuming Obama is the nominee) at least disgruntled democrats will start to return to the fold.

    By Anonymous Jaxx Raxor, At 18 April, 2008 01:36  

  • I have run some numbers and I have seen that Obama doesn't need neither Pennsylvania or Ohio! if the NC wasn't an outlier he could win with NC ,Virginia and Iowa!

    I also believe that with some campaigning and once Mayor Villaraigosa jump on board the Obama campaign in the GE, The Hispanic vote will be the wild card, remember Bush carried Nevada and NM because he won a a high percentage of Hispanics, but after the Immigration fiasco I seriously doubt another GOPer will win the Hispanic vote in some time..

    By Blogger Javier, At 18 April, 2008 02:13  

  • A very mixed bag of results for the Dems. I find it interesting that Obama does as well as Clinton in New Mexico and with the Latino vote. So he isn`t weak with Latino's (in that state at least).
    It is true that the GE in states like MA, NY and CA are closer with Obama (for now) but Hillary has her own weakness with other important states like IA, WI and MN.
    These numbers will only start to be really useful when we have a definitive nominee on both sides and we get closer to November.
    It may be unreasonable as Taniel puts it for us to expect Dems to all come back home but I think it is reasonable to expect some more than 65% of Dems to vote Obama in some solid Democratic states. Especially since policy wise there is not much difference between Clinton and Obama.
    One thing that is unknowable at the moment is would Obama increase turnout so much with Blacks and students to help win?
    Turnout in those groups is typically lower than the general populations and that isn't saying much. Since most western countries have much higher turnout at elections than America does. Therefore there is a lot of room for improvement in turnout - which could render these polls very inaccurate.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 18 April, 2008 06:35  

  • The groups that support Obama are not reliable. Loud and vocal support is nice, but getting your ass out and voting is what counts. I think these numbers show definitively that Obama is the divider of the party, not Clinton. The continued use of the rhetoric by Obamans day after day that the opposite is true, can only drive down his support among Democrats more. Consistently now polling suggests more Obamans will support Hillary than Hillaryites will support Obama. Obama loses no matter what. If the party defies the will of its members, the members will not support the party. The DNC wonders where the checks are?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 07:11  

  • Anon 07:11. You say that Obama supporters are unreliable, then how can you count for the fact that thousaands, if not millions of new voters turned up to vote for him? Indeed the democratic primary has divided the party, but to say that its mostly Obama's fault is very disingentious. Clinton's constant bashing of him not on issues but on gaffes is hurting her own image among Dem voters and hurting Obama if he becomes the nominee.

    And yes, Obama supporters are more likely to support Clinton, but that only matters if Clinton actually overtakes Obama in pledged delegates, in which Obama supporters would be understanding and vote for the nominee. If hillary wins because of the superdelegates then the amount of Obama supporters who won't vote for her will at least double if not more.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 18 April, 2008 09:03  

  • Anon - 7:11 using your argument you could say the Hillary supporters are less reliable because they are willing to vote Republican even though if Obama was the nominee he woul dhave very similar policies to Clinton. Obama supporters are more loyal Dems and include some of the largest rock solid Democratic voting blocs.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 18 April, 2008 09:05  

  • The minority of Democrats support Obama, not the majority. That's his weakness. We saw in past elections this wildly excited group of new voters evaporate in the fall. To say Obama supporters are more loyal is an outright falsehood. Loyalty requires you to vote for Hillary, not Obama. The result is that loyal Democrats will stick with their leader and not stray to Obama. The entire Obama mantra seems to be phony. When bogus points are examined and found to be deliberately mis-leading, true issues are not credible.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 10:00  

  • Consistently now polling suggests more Obamans will support Hillary than Hillaryites will support Obama. Obama loses no matter what.

    That's a faulty analysis. Even if Obama doesn't do as well with Democrats as Clinton, he does better with independents (and some Republicans). It's not as if only Democrats will decide the presidential race; it's the entire voting population.

    If one is trying to predict anything (and it's a very, very long way to November), the state-by-state national polls are what matters because they take into account any defections either way. But trying to predict national outcomes based on Democratic polling only is about as useful as the using primary victories to predict of general election results--which is not at all.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 11:45  

  • Obama will lose without the support of the party on who's line he's running. To suggest otherwise is just silly. A candidate that nobody likes gets no support. A majority of Democrats have decided he's not worthy. I glad you agree that Obama's primary victories are useless in the GE. If he was a third party candidate, he'd be doing well. But this is about Democratic control over the government and Democrats will be the deciding group that matters. To appease the independents at the expense of the Democrats is cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's a failing strategy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 12:23  

  • Obama will lose without the support of the party on who's line he's running.

    Even if that were true, which it isn't (see below), Obama is leading Clinton among Democratic voters. "On the eve of their debate before the Pennsylvania primary next week, Democrats by a 2-1 margin, 62-31 percent, now see Obama as better able to win in November." "Democrats by 51-41 percent say they'd like to see Obama win the nomination, his biggest advantage to date." That's according to an ABC poll that came out on April 16. Sounds like Democratic support to me.

    To appease the independents at the expense of the Democrats is cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's a failing strategy.

    Bill Clinton didn't win in 1992 by appeasing the base. He ran to the center. People said his "Sister Soulia moment" would cost him the election. It didn't. Sounds like a winning strategy.

    I glad you agree that Obama's primary victories are useless in the GE.

    It was the Clinton campaign pushing that argument. But it's equally invalid no matter who pushes it.

    Again, the national polls capture any defectors. They're the ones to look at, not Democrat-only polls.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 14:34  

  • Just to clarify: it was the Clinton campaign pushing the argument that her victories against Obama in big and battleground states made her a better candidate in those states against McCain. I thought that argument was purposely deceptive then, and it remains so no matter which side makes it.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 17:28  

  • It's the Obama argument that states that the number of states won is more important than which states. As for the assertion that more Deomocrats support Obama, you'd have to concede that the most generous vote estimate of a 3% lead is a limiting number for his support from independents. If you're willing to concede that his draw from independents is so little, I'll concede that his draw from Democrats is equal. Given he's then only won a measly 3% of independents, how is he electable? If he has a more realistic boost of 20% from independents then Hillary has a clear majority of Democrats.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 19:30  

  • As for the assertion that more Deomocrats support Obama, you'd have to concede that the most generous vote estimate of a 3% lead is a limiting number for his support from independents.

    I don't get the logic here. I assume you're pointing out that he has a 3% popular vote lead among contests held so far. Some of those contests allowed independents to vote, some did not. To see what percentage of independents he won against Clinton, you'd have to know what the percentage of those voting were independents. If Clinton and Obama split the Democratic vote and Obama's lead were 3%, and independents constituted 3% of the total turnout, then Obama would have won 100% of the independent vote. But we can't know without a further breakdown. Note that some states (such as New York and Maryland) have closed primaries, so the number of independents voting there would be zero.

    Also, there's a question as to whether those primary results would hold up if all votes were held today; many polls have Obama up by more than 3% nationally among Democrats and Democratic leaners.

    But all of this is irrelevant for the general election because these contest were Obama and Clinton against each other, not McCain. If you want to see how the candidates do against McCain with independents, then look at polling data on how they do against McCain, not each other, with independents. It's a completely different contest, and extrapolating from primary results is just as invalid here as it would be for the general election (and you've conceded that one can't infer general election results from primary contests).

    It's the Obama argument that states that the number of states won is more important than which states.

    Yes, the Obama campaign does bring that up. But it's in the context of winning against Clinton, not as a predictor of success against McCain in the general election. That line has been pushed by the Clinton campaign to sway superdelegates--which is, of course, her only real option at this point. It doesn't seem to matter to her campaign that the argument lacks any validity.

    And I note no reaction to the ABC poll stating that Democrats consider him more electable by 2:1 If that's true, that would seem to refute the claim that he would lack Democratic support if he were the nominee.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 21:15  

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