“Barack Obama continues to lead John McCain by a slim margin,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston. "But our Florida bellwethers may be telltale signs of the race tightening."
In both Florida bellwethers of Hillsborough and Monroe counties, Obama and McCain were deadlocked at exactly 42 percent each. Suffolk University conducts bellwether polls in particular regions that historically reflect how the wider population will vote.
Statewide, Obama led McCain 46 percent to 45 percent among those very likely to vote but was crushing McCain 60 percent to 40 percent among those who had already voted.
The majority of those choosing a candidate have made up their minds. Ninety-one percent said their minds were made up while just 8 percent indicated that they might change their minds. Of those voters who may change their minds, Obama led 58 percent to 37 percent, but of those who had made up their minds, Obama only led 51 percent to 49 percent.
“John McCain still has an opportunity to close the gap among those self-identified voters who may change their minds in the next seven days. The question is whether he will close the margin or flip the state entirely from blue to red."
Overall, voters are more comfortable with Barack Obama as president. Some 48 percent of Florida likely voters statewide said they would be extremely or very comfortable with Obama compared to 43 percent for McCain. Similarly, just 29 percent said they were not at all comfortable with Obama compared to 35 percent for McCain.
However, among those voters still undecided, only 19 percent were not at all comfortable with McCain while 31 percent were not at all comfortable with Obama. This may signal an anti-Obama sentiment among those who say they are undecided.
The Republican National Committee's expenditure of $150,000 for clothes and fashion accessories for their vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was not a concern for the majority of likely Florida voters. However, of those concerned about the revelation, 54 percent said that they were more likely to vote for the Obama-Biden ticket, 13 percent were more likely to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, 3 percent were more likely to support third-party candidates, and 28 percent said that the issue would have no effect on their vote.
Respondents said they trust Obama more than McCain, 48 percent to 45 percent. This is consistent with the Suffolk University/7News-Miami September poll. That poll showed a 45 percent to 44 percent lead for Obama.
The top issues on the minds of Florida voters were economy/jobs (46 percent), moral values (12 percent), terrorism (10 percent), taxes (9 percent), healthcare (8 percent), and the Iraq War (7 percent).
Barack Obama continues to win the perception game. When asked who would be the next president, regardless of their personal preference, 60 percent said that they thought Obama, while just 31 percent said McCain.
In 2008, Suffolk University bellwethers were 95 percent accurate in predicting straight-up 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 straight-up winners.
The Suffolk University poll was conducted Thursday October 23, 2008, through Sunday, October 26, 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 303 respondents each from the bellwethers of Hillsborough and Monroe counties respectively, identified separately from the statewide poll. Marginals and 125 pages of cross-tabulation data will be posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site on Monday, October 27, 2008. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.