A New Jersey presidential poll released on Friday by Fairleigh Dickinson University shows Republican Sen. John McCain trailing Democratic Sen. Barack Obama by double digits, 49%-33%, with the Bush administration and Iraq War causing significant damage to the presumptive GOP nominee.
"The more McCain is associated with Bush administration policies the more it hurts his support among independent voters," said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and survey analyst for the university’s PublicMind poll.
According to Cassino’s polling, 18% of voters say that they approve of the job President George W. Bush is doing while 75% disapprove. Just 15% say that the country is moving in the right direction and nearly three in four say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
The poll for the first time shows that there is not a majority of Republican voters who approve of the President’s job performance.
Republicans polled split evenly on the question of Bush handling his job with 45% approving and 46% disapproving. Another shift is in Republican views of the Iraq war: Republican voters by margins of two-to-one have said in many previous polls that going to war in Iraq was the "right thing to do" but now only half agree (51%) while 41% say it was a mistake.
"There's no question that the war has a critical impact on Democrats, independents and Republicans alike," said Cassino. "That support for the war is going down – even while the situation in Iraq seems somewhat better – is a bad sign for the Republicans."
The poll results also show Obama’s vulnerabilities in New Jersey.
Two days after McCain Campaign Chair Bill Baroni identified castaway Hilary Clinton voters as campaign targets, the poll reveals that 18% of respondents who say they voted for Clinton on Feb. 5th now say they will support the Republican. Sixty-four percent of those polled who say they voted for Clinton now indicate they will support Obama in November.
"In many ways, this race is going to be a fight over Clinton supporters," said Cassino. "That fight is far from over."
But Bush fatigue remains a big factor – and most significantlyamong independents.
Obama’s lead increases substantially, from 13 to 18 points when voters field questions about the president and Iraq before they are asked who they might vote for in the election.
According to the PublicMind poll, "Half of respondents were asked questions about Bush and the war before being asked who they would vote for in the November election, while the other half were asked about the president and Iraq afterwards.
"The greatest impact of reminding voters of national issues comes among independent voters. Among independent voters not reminded of Bush and Iraq, Obama and McCain tie 24% to 24% with a plurality of 48% undecided. However, when independent voters are reminded of the national issues, Obama takes a 27 point lead, 41% – 14%," according to the release from PublicMind.
In other poll findings, three-quarters of voters say the race of the candidate is not an important factor in deciding their vote; 16% say it's one of several important factors and 8% say it's the single most important factor. Twenty-eight percent of voters polled say race won't be an important factor for others while 46% say it will be one of several important factors and 15% say it will be the most important factor in how others will make their choice.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 702 registered voters statewide who report their chances of voting in the Presidential election as fair or better was conducted by telephone from June 17 through June 23 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.