Although Barack Obama is the likely Democratic nominee, West Virginia Democratic voters are marching to a different drummer, as Hillary Clinton leads Obama by 36 points among likely Democratic voters, according to a poll released today by Suffolk University.

Sixty percent of voters polled preferred Clinton to Obama (24 percent). John Edwards, whose name remains on all West Virginia ballots, polled 4 percent, while 2 percent had no preference; 8 percent were undecided; and 2 percent refused a response.

Respondents said Clinton should stay in the primary fight and that she is not hurting the Democratic Party by staying in the race. Sixty-seven percent of likely Democratic voters said Clinton should stay in the race, regardless of what happens on Tuesday, and 24 percent said she should get out. Seventy-two percent said she is not hurting the Democratic Party by running in the remaining primaries, while 20 percent said she is doing the party harm.

Clinton's favorable rate high

Obama's favorability (44 percent favorable - 41 percent unfavorable) was relatively low, compared to Clinton (70 percent favorable - 21 percent unfavorable).

West Virginia has voted Democratic in eight of the last 12 general elections, dating back to 1960, but these findings could indicate difficulties for Obama in 2008.

 "Barack Obama may have to write off West Virginia come November," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. "In 2000, Al Gore won seventy-two percent of West Virginia Democratic Primary voters and lost the state’s general election to George Bush by six percent; in 2004, John Kerry won sixty-nine percent of West Virginia Democratic Primary voters and lost the state’s general election to George Bush by thirteen percent. If Barack Obama can't even garner thirty percent of West Virginia Democratic Primary voters, what does that say about the West Virginia general election?"

Party loyalty

West Virginia Democratic voters’ party loyalty also is fragile. Asked what they would do if their first choice for the Democratic nomination lost, 40 percent of respondents said they would still vote for the Democratic nominee; 23 percent said they would jump parties and vote for Republican John McCain; 6 percent would vote for independent candidate Ralph Nader; 30 percent were undecided; while 2 percent refused a response.

West Virginia Democratic voters appeared to be in denial about the delegate projections. Asked who would be the next president, regardless of whom they personally supported, 31 percent said Clinton; 27 percent, Obama; 26 percent, McCain; and 11 percent were undecided.

In other Suffolk University findings, 51 percent of those surveyed said that Obama could beat McCain in the general election, while 29 percent said he could not, and 20 percent were undecided.

Bellwether

The Suffolk University bellwether of Mason County, which was a sister-test to the statewide survey, also showed a commanding Clinton lead of 65 percent, with Obama at 16 percent; Edwards, 3 percent; no preference, 2 percent; 10 percent undecided, and 5 percent refused a response. The Mason County, West Virginia, Primary returns have been in the correct order and within 5 percent of the actual statewide Primary results from both parties in years where an incumbent U.S. president has not been on the ballot.

Methodology

The Suffolk University poll was conducted May 10 and May 11, 2008. The margin of error on the statewide survey of 600 is +/- 4.00 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. All respondents from the statewide survey were likely voters in the May 13 West Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary. Marginals and 110 pages of cross-tabulation data are available.

The Suffolk University election predictor bellwether ID sister-test (400 contacts) was made May 10. There was an equal probability of contacting and interviewing registered voters of all party affiliations, provided that they identified themselves as likely to take a Democratic ballot on Tuesday. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.