New polls are out. The "horse race" polls are, in the main, nothing new, with the exception of the latest Newsweek poll, which strikes me more as an outlier, compared to daily tracking poll numbers that are probably closer to truth.
First, the horse race numbers.
To start things off, the Newsweek poll shows Obama with a whopping lead over McCain:
... new NEWSWEEK Poll shows that he has a substantial double-digit lead, 51 percent to 36 percent, over McCain among registered voters nationwide.
Obama's current lead also reflects the large party-identification advantage the Democrats now enjoy—55 percent of all voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the party while just 36 percent call themselves Republicans or lean that way.
CNN, however, shows a significantly tighter race:
Sen. Barack Obama has gained two percentage points in his lead over Sen. John McCain, according to the latest CNN poll of polls released Friday.
Obama now leads McCain by 6 percentage points – 46 percent to McCain’s 40 percent. In the previous CNN poll of polls, Obama’s lead was 4 percentage points.
Gallup indicates that the candidates are in a dead heat:
PRINCETON, NJ -- At the start of the long summer in which John McCain and Barack Obama will hone their messages and strive to fill their campaign coffers before the crucial fall campaign season, the two are nearly tied in national voter preferences, 46% for Obama and 44% for McCain.
Today's figures, based on Gallup Poll Daily tracking from June 17 and 19-20, are identical to those reported on Friday, and are consistent with the close nature of the race for the past week, with Obama holding a slight advantage.
It is other polling data that addresses far more informative and interesting questions.
First, where do these candidates stand with Independent voters - those that have decided the last two elections and who Obama has courted aggressively?
The answer, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, is "it depends on the issues", but McCain does better on national security/terrorism/Iraq War (what a surprise):
In the first Washington Post-ABC News poll since the Democratic nomination contest ended, Obama and McCain are even among political independents, a shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee over the past month. On the issues, independents see McCain as more credible on fighting terrorism and are split evenly on who is the stronger leader and better on the Iraq war. But on other key attributes and issues -- including the economy -- Obama has advantages among independents.
I wonder if Friday's FISA vote (and Obama's afterword on its passage) will change any Independents' views. It seems from Obama's political calculations on FISA that he and his campaign possibly looked at these poll numbers (or others like them). Whether they have or not, it looks like the shiny new toy has lost some of its appeal (more on this in a future post).
And another intriguing question (with an apparent answer from Gallup): Which candidate do middle-aged voters support?
PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama's appeal to younger voters and John McCain's support among older voters may have created a situation where the outcome will turn on the preferences of middle-aged voters -- particularly those in their 40s.
Since Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign earlier this month, McCain and Obama have tied at 46% support among registered voters between the ages of 40 and 49, according to an analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from June 5-16.
Those in their 50s also seem to be split between the two:
In addition to their exact tie among voters in their 40s, the candidates are also competitive among voters in their 50s, with Obama holding a slight 47% to 43% advantage.
I find this last poll interesting, too, because it parallels results from a PEW Research Center for the People & the Press study of voting trends that focused on the generation gap:
Unlike young and middle-aged voters, older voters appear far less captivated by the Obama persona. Many fewer of them say he is inspiring or down-to-earth, while more call him arrogant and hard to like.
This "generation gap" starts to show up - in PEW's study - at 40-something and is prominent among 50-somethings. Andrew Kohut points to the gap as evidence of a tilt among older voters to more conservative social and political views, but I think it is something much more basic - older voters (at least those baby boomers who came of age during Vietnam, Watergate, and the Summer of Love aren't less idealistic or liberal, just more pragmatic. They have a resume of credentials for their pragmatism, too.
They have worked and changed jobs (and probably careers) several times, have been through at least two deep and lengthy recessions, have experienced earth-shattering assassinations of two of their "chosen" leaders, have witnessed one national energy crisis in the 70s and out-of-this-world interest rates - also in the 70s, and have survived two terms of Ronald Reagan who, in spite of his affable "aw, shucks" outward persona, was worse than George W. Bush on civil rights, worker's rights, corporate accountability, judicial restraint, and the rule of law. Reagan is probably the model upon which George W. Bush has based his own administration's lawlessness.
Thus, for a lot of baby boomers Barack Obama represents nothing new and certainly nothing as transformative as what they experienced, participated in and witnessed during the 1960s and 1970s. After all, most baby boomers spent much of their adult lives advancing civil rights, women's rights, and environmental causes, among other social and political concerns.