Though the Commonwealth of Virginia has voted Republican in ten straight Presidential elections, a new poll by Suffolk University signals that Democrat Barack Obama is poised to break that historic streak. Obama (51 percent) leads Republican John McCain (39 percent) by 12 percentage points.

"Barack Obama has built a coalition of suburban DC area progressives from the north, African-American voters from the south, and young voters statewide," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston. “That broad-based support suggests a 44-year Republican run in the Old Dominion State, dating back to Lyndon Johnson's victory in 1964, is in jeopardy."
The poll shows last Thursday's vice presidential debate was a net plus for the Democratic ticket. Exactly three-quarters (75 percent) of likely voters watched and scored Joe Biden (46 percent) the clear winner over Sarah Palin (26 percent), while 20 percent said neither won the debate. When asked if the debate affected their presidential selection, 32 percent said it made them more likely to vote Obama, while 18 percent said the debate moved them to McCain, and 47 percent said the debate didn't affect their decision.

“The toxic state of the economy in the final year of the Bush Administration is making many Republican candidates radioactive,” Paleologos said. “As has been the case in other Suffolk battleground states, the recent Wall Street and economic turmoil has been costly to the Republican party in Virginia.”

When likely voters were asked which political party -- if any -- deserved blame for the shaky economy, 39 percent blamed the Republicans; 15 percent blamed Democrats; 31 percent said neither; and 13 percent were undecided. And when asked which candidate voters trusted more, Obama led McCain 50 percent to 37 percent, a dramatic uptick from other recent Suffolk surveys in other battleground states.

In the clash between the Old Dominion's two former governors, Democrat Mark Warner (57 percent) leads Republican Jim Gilmore (25 percent). Independent Greens candidate Glenda Gail Parker secured 1 percent; 15 percent were undecided; and 2 percent refused to pick a candidate.
The economy/jobs issue (52 percent) dwarfed all other issues in the survey, including the Iraq War (9 percent) and healthcare (8 percent). Taxes, moral values, terrorism, and education all tied with 6 percent.

The Virginia bellwethers disagreed on the presidential winner. In Accomack County, Obama led McCain 41 percent to 40 percent, but in the city of Chesapeake McCain led Obama 42 percent to 36 percent. Bellwether ID's are designed to predict outcomes - not margins - and to supplement the Suffolk statewide polls.

In 2008, Suffolk University bellwethers, when they agreed on an outcome, 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 Friday, October 3, 2008, through Sunday, October 5, 2008. The margin of error on the study of 600 is +/- 4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. All respondents from the Virginia statewide survey were likely voters. In the bellwether polls, there were 282 respondents from Chesapeake city and 303 respondents from Accomack County, and both were surveyed separately from the statewide poll. Marginals and 120 pages of cross-tabulation data will be posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site on Monday, October 6, 2008. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.