12:00 AM

Big Ten Battleground Poll: Obama surges to lead in Ohio

Obama and Biden have opened up a wide lead over McCain and Palin in Ohio, according to a new poll conducted by universities within the Big Ten Conference.

The poll, unveiled yesterday on the Big Ten Network, shows Obama ahead by at least 10 points in all eight Big Ten Midwestern states, including a 12-point lead in Ohio. A similar poll taken in mid-September (before the candidate debates and before the government bailout of financial institutions), showed a statistical dead heat between the Democratic and Republican candidates.

At Ohio State, the project was led by Paul Beck, professor of political science, along with professors Herb Asher and Herb Weisberg. A total of 564 Ohioans were interviewed by telephone in the survey conducted from Oct. 19-22. The margin of error is +/-4.2%.

In Ohio, 49% say they would vote for Obama and Biden if the election were held that day, or already had voted that way in early voting; and 38% would vote for McCain and Palin (or already had). If undecided voters are added to these totals based on how they were leaning at the time, the margin widens to 53 to 41% in favor of Obama-Biden.

Beck says the state of the economy figures prominently in these results.

"The economy is dominating voters' views of what is the most serious national issue, with 62% citing it vs. 12% who mentioned terrorism and national security. On economic issues, 45% of Ohioans viewed Obama, compared to 22% McCain, as more likely to make the right decisions," says Beck.

Beck also says that among Ohioans, voter evaluations of Palin have changed the most dramatically among the four candidates. She is the only one now viewed more unfavorably than favorably, with 44% favorable compared to 47% unfavorable. Just a month before, her evaluations were 50% favorable to 36% unfavorable.

Beck says the dramatic change in Ohio from the earlier poll is the result of movement in an Obama direction among Independents.

He notes, "Among Independents, who favored McCain-Palin by a 46% to 36% margin a month before, Democrats are now outpolling Republicans 50% to 38% in Ohio. Beck also notes that Obama-Biden are now 1% ahead among white voters interviewed in the Ohio sample.

As the national conventions ended and the fall campaigns went into full swing, the eight Big Ten states emerged as the prime battleground for the 2008 presidential campaign. George W. Bush had won 3 of these states in 2004, and 6 of the races were decided by no more than 4% margins. Beck says John McCain needs to hold at least the Bush states to win the 2008 contest.

Beck says "Ohio and Indiana are the most recent states to move into the Obama column, according to our polling results, and they are states McCain can hardly afford to lose in his quest for the presidency."

Across the Big Ten states, the poll shows Obama and Biden leading by comfortable margins. Big Ten Battleground Poll head-to-head results for individual states:

Illinois - Obama 61%, McCain 32%
Indiana - Obama 51%, McCain 41%
Iowa - Obama 52%, McCain 39%
Ohio - Obama 53%, McCain 41%
Michigan - Obama 58%, McCain 36%
Minnesota - Obama 57%, McCain 38%
Pennsylvania - Obama 52%, McCain 41%
Wisconsin - Obama 53%, McCain 40%

For more details about the poll, visit http://www.bigtenpoll.org.