POLITICS
11/14/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Widens Lead Due To Economy, Voter Backlash Over Negative Ads

With the economy dominating the news, several new polls show Barack Obama widening his lead over John McCain, with voters trusting the Democratic candidate to fix the "serious economic crisis" and firmly rejecting the recent spate of negative personal attacks targeted at Obama.

Most dramatically, Obama has widened his lead to double digits, at 14 points, in a NYT/CBS News poll that shows - for the first time - white voters evenly divided between the candidates.

Two major factors hurting McCain that emerged in the poll: Sarah Palin and the recent spate of negative ads targeting Obama.

Six in 10 of those surveyed said that Mr. McCain had spent more time attacking Mr. Obama than explaining what he would do as president.

And Palin, who has been leading many of the campaign's personal attacks at fiery rallies in the last two weeks, has seen her favorability rating slipping down to 32 percent and her unfavorability rating climbed 11 points to 41 percent.

Mr. Obama's favorability rating, by contrast, is now at 50 percent - the highest recorded for him thus far by The Times and CBS News.

Though Palin won some praise for her performance in the vice-presidential debate, most viewers felt that Biden won and "not one tracking poll has showed movement toward the McCain-Palin ticket in the days following the debate," reports the Hill.

Another finding that bodes poorly for McCain, considering the campaign's consistent attempts to portray Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal, is that more voters think McCain would raise their taxes. Fifty-one percent of voters think McCain would raise their taxes compared to 46 percent who think Obama would do the same.

Other dramatic findings from that poll: Obama is now favored by a majority of men and independents, "two groups that he has been fighting to win over," according to the Times.

The poll presents serious problems for McCain, with only 20 days left in the campaign, since four out of five of each candidate's supporters now say their minds are made up.

Granted, there have been wild swings in the polls throughout the campaign and McCain achieved a Phoenix-like resurrection during the Republican primary when he was considered finished after polling miserably last year.

"We've seen comebacks before and certainly this campaign has been so unpredictable thus far that anything can happen," GOP strategist Doug Heye told the Hill.

The McCain campaign acknowledged that the economic crisis has impacted the candidates' numbers. Bill McInturff, a pollster for McCain, responded to the latest polls, writing The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder:

"The financial tsunami has produced one of the most difficult and volatile times to conduct polling in modern times. During these uniquely volatile last few weeks, I have seen as much day-to-day movement as I have witnessed in my 20 plus year career as a pollster."

Also, a small group of likely voters feel that Obama's past associations with Bill Ayers and Reverend Jeremiah Wright are issues that bother them.

Other polls demonstrated how the global financial meltdown has helped tilt voters to Obama with most voters saying that Obama can fix the "serious economic crisis," according to a Bloomberg/LAT poll. Obama leads McCain by nine points, 51 to 40, in that survey of voters.

Some findings are consistent in the polls, with about half the respondents saying that Palin is unqualified to be president and voters saying Palin makes them less likely to vote for McCain.