CBSN

Advantage: Obama

Barack Obama has regained the slim lead in the polls he'd held steadily throughout the summer, and with the market crisis dominating news coverage, key electoral trends again appear to favor the Democrat.

While John McCain briefly moved ahead by as much as 5-percentage points following the Republican convention at the beginning of this month, Obama has now reestablished a 3-point lead in the national Gallup tracking poll, which matches his average margin in June and July.

Other national polls show a similar improvement for the Democrat. The Washington Post-ABC News poll reported Wednesday that Obama has improved by 11 points over the past two weeks, and now holds a 52 to 43 percent advantage among likely voters. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll shows Obama leading McCain by 5 points among registered voters, the same margin as in the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, which had McCain ahead by 2 points earlier this month.

Obama has also increased his advantage on two critical indicators—which candidate voters believe would better handle the economy, and which would bring "change" to Washington—that McCain had closed the gap on following his party's convention. And Democrats have broadened their lead in party affiliation after that too had tightened following McCain's addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket and acceptance of his party's nomination.

The shift appears to be tied, at least in part, to the turmoil on Wall Street. Wednesday's Washington Post-ABC poll found that for the first time this cycle, half of all voters view the economy and jobs as the single most important issue—five times more than cite the war in Iraq and a remarkable 13-point rise in the past two weeks. The CNN/ORC poll found that by nearly a two-to-one margin, 47 to 24 percent, voters believe Republicans “are more responsible for the problems currently facing financial institutions and the stock market.”

The poll also found that Obama now has a 10-point advantage, 53 to 43 percent, on the question of who would better handle the economy, reestablishing a margin that had been halved after the GOP convention. The most recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found Obama led by 12 points, 47 to 35 percent, among registered voters on who would “do a better job of handling this financial crisis next year.” And Gallup shows that 29 percent of voters say the financial crisis increases the likelihood they would vote for Obama, compared to 23 percent who say the same for McCain.

Gallup’s authoritative weekly average of national polling shows that Obama's improvement comes mostly from increased support among white voters. The Democrat has closed McCain's 51 to 40 percent advantage among white women from a week ago to 47 to 45 percent—an effective tie. Among white men, Obama has improved from 33 to 37 percent in the same span, meaning his support among white voters of both genders, which had lagged, is now again in line with the modern norm for Democratic nominees.

Gallup also reported Tuesday that Democrats have regained their double-digit party identity advantage, which had narrowed to just five points after the GOP convention. Nearly half, 49 percent, of Americans now identify or lean Democratic, while only 39 percent identify or lean Republican.

After the GOP convention, the CNN poll found that Obama led by only 8 points on the question of which candidate “can bring the kind of change the country needs.” Today Obama again has a 14-point, 54 to 40 percent, advantage.

The CBS/Times poll reports that on the question of who would “bring about real change to Washington,” voters prefer Obama 65 to 37 percent. That margin is roughly the same among independent voters.

It's a critical advantage as the Post-ABC poll shows just 14 percent of respondents believe the country is “heading in the right direction"—and notes this level of pblic pessimism was last reached in 1973, in the midst of Watergate, the first oil crisis and the dusk of the Vietnam War.

And more than six in ten voters today, according to the CBS/Times poll, believe the economy is only “getting worse.”