Voter trust in Sen. John McCain and enthusiasm for running mate Gov. Sarah Palin have vaulted the Republican presidential ticket into a slight lead in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, according to a new poll.
The McCain-Palin ticket leads Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and vice presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden by 46 percent to 42 percent, according to a new Suffolk University voter poll conducted Sept. 10-13. The two parties are waging a fierce struggle in the swing state which provided the Electoral College votes that ensured President Bush's re-election in 2004.
"McCain benefits from voter identification and empathy, as well as a greater sense of voter trust in McCain himself," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston.
Some 31 percent of the likely voters polled said Mrs. Palin, governor of Alaska, is more like them than are any of the other candidates, while 22 percent said Mr. Obama was more like them. Mr. McCain followed with 21 percent and 13 percent named Mr. Biden.
As for which candidate they trusted more, sampled voters chose Mr. McCain over Mr. Obama by an eight-point margin, 49 percent to 41 percent. By an even larger margin, 41 percent to 31 percent, they said the Arizona senator is more likely than the Illinois senator to fulfill his pledge to lower taxes.
Mr. McCain has led in six of the seven polls conducted in Ohio since the two conventions concluded, with a lead ranging from 1 to 7 percentage points. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.
As its early polling lead evaporated, the Obama campaign has dropped plans to contest all 50 states and is concentrating instead on traditional swing states that have decided most of the recent close elections.
Mr. Obama has cut back sharply, for example, on his Georgia operations to focus money and manpower in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
The new Suffolk University poll also is one of the first to show a voter backlash over what is perceived to be condescending treatment of Mrs. Palin, a first-term governor, by the press and by political opponents since her surprise selection last month. The news coverage has been a sore point with women in general and Republican women in particular.
In the survey, 38 percent of respondents overall said the news media have been too harsh toward Mrs. Palin, and 23 percent said the press coverage had been fair.
"When you separate out the target group of voters who are the most undecided now — I mean the self-described independents — the difference is more dramatic. By a lopsided 42 percent to 6 percent they think the media treat her harshly rather than fairly," Mr. Paleologos told The Washington Times.
The poll of 600 randomly selected Ohio voters had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.