McCain posts big lead in Alabama poll

Published 1:41 pm Monday, September 22, 2008

MOBILE (AP) – A statewide poll shows Republican John McCain with a big lead over Democrat Barack Obama in Alabama. But as the election draws near, many voters are undecided about their choice.

A random telephone survey by the Mobile Press-Register and University of South Alabama Polling Group found 52 percent backing McCain and 25 percent Obama. Another 23 percent were undecided, supporting someone else or didn’t answer.

The numbers showed a drop for McCain and Obama from a March survey by the newspaper and USA. In that survey, 57 percent supported McCain, 30 percent backed Obama, and 13 percent were undecided or supporting someone else.

Poll director Keith Nicholls said the shift could have resulted from voters who are wavering in their support of McCain but are not ready to vote for Obama.

McCain’s lead over Obama is no surprise because Republican presidential candidates have carried Alabama since 1980 and McCain has consistently led Obama in Alabama surveys leading up to the election Nov. 4. But McCain’s support is running behind the 62 percent vote that President Bush received in Alabama in 2004.

McCain’s Alabama chairman, state Attorney General Troy King, said the political climate for Republicans is less favorable than four years ago, but McCain’s large lead shows that Alabama voters are responding to his message and like his selection of vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin.

In the survey, 65 percent said they had a positive impression of the Alaska governor and 19 percent had a negative impression. When asked about Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, 43 percent were positive and 33 percent negative.

While Alabama is not considered a competitive state, the race is serving as a measure of the willingness of whites to support a black presidential candidate.

In the telephone survey of 406 registered voters, 10.7 percent of the whites surveyed said they would vote for Obama. Among white Democrats, nearly 40 percent described themselves as undecided.

Among white independents, nearly 60 percent said they supported McCain, with 28 percent undecided.

Obama’s Alabama campaign chairman, Democratic U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham, said Obama repeatedly attracted more white support in the primaries than pre-election polls indicated he would receive.

The Alabama survey was conducted Sept. 8-16 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.